When Tricia Bailey was faced with a diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer and no insurance, she was petrified. Turns out there was help that she didn't know existed in the forms of personal support and financial assistance.
Tricia Bailey of Dover waited three months to get a lump in her breast checked out. She was working but did not have health insurance, so she waited until her annual gynecological appointment to bring it to a doctor’s attention. Even at her regular appointment, her doctor didn’t think it was anything to worry about. Bailey had no family history of breast cancer, and she was only 34.
Still, the doctor recommended an ultrasound, an expensive procedure for people paying out of pocket. Bailey was referred to Trisha Bentley, Bayhealth breast care coordinator, who in turn referred to her the Screening for Life program.
A week after her initial doctor’s appointment, Bailey had gotten an ultrasound and a biopsy, and a diagnosis: three cancerous masses in her left breast, and cancer in her lymph nodes.
“It’s hard to explain, you’re just kind of in a daze. And even when they tell you you’re kind of in a daze. It kind of takes some time to process it and know, is this really happening?” Bailey said.
Not even a month after her diagnosis, Bailey had a double mastectomy.
Bailey had to make a lot of decisions about her health and her future in a tiny window of time, and she got help doing that through Bayhealth’s and the state’s resources. She said if there was one thing she wishes she would have known, it’s that there was help out there for her even when she didn’t have insurance. Her advice is if there’s something wrong, don’t wait to go to the doctor.
The Bayhealth Cancer Screening Assistance Program provided Bailey’s initial ultrasound, and Screening for Life picked up the bill for her ultrasound-guided biopsy. Bayhealth also helped Bentley enroll in the Delaware Cancer Treatment Program, which will pay for her treatment-related expenses for two years. Many of those organizations that aid women with breast cancer diagnoses will be on hand for Bayhealth’s Go Pink! health fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1, at 540 S. Governors Ave., Dover. Proceeds help fund free breast imaging programs at Bayhealth and the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition.
Bentley said the screening assistance program gives screenings and diagnostic mammograms throughout the year. Digital mammograms can cost $700 or so without insurance, Bentley said, so the program is an important service.
They also enroll patients into Screening for Life, do screenings and even help women who might be in treatment and need help paying non-medical bills.
“These are people who really have no other way to pay,” she said. “They’re working but they don’t have insurance coverage.”
Bentley said Bailey is one of the patients who is out of the spectrum of women at a higher risk for breast cancer. She’s also one of eight women younger than 40 who have been diagnosed since the start of the year. She has no solid reason as to the surge in younger women being diagnosed, but said the best defense is knowledge.
“My basic thing is, know what your body is, do your self breast exams if you’re not up to a screening age,” she said.
A lot of times it’s the women younger than 40, which is when mammograms are often recommended, who have a symptom that needs to be assessed.
“It’s a lump, or discharge or pain that weighs on your mind and causes a lot of emotional distress,” Bentley said.
Bailey encourages younger women with symptoms to get checked as soon as they recognize the issue. She’s realized that it could happen to anyone.
“I never even considered it. Even when I found the lump I didn’t think it was going to be anything,” she said.
Bailey is grateful for the programs that paid for her diagnosis and treatment, and also for Bentley.
“Without her, she literally guided me through the entire process. Every test she helped me schedule, told me what was going to happen, her help was invaluable,” Bailey said.
She said talking to another young woman with the same diagnosis also helped. The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition’s peer mentor program offers that camaraderie, and Bailey said she might get involved with that at some point. Now she’s looking forward to getting through the first stage of treatment. And to planning her wedding: she got engaged the same week she was diagnosed.
“For me, I have faith in the Lord so God just brought me through the whole process,” she said.
For information on breast cancer events throughout the month, including support groups, the Go Pink! health fair, and others, click here.