Mrs. M’s story represents the teamwork that is at the heart of everything AFC does. Longstanding, trusted relationships and a community with a generous spirit are the basis of the miracle that happens for women with a breast cancer diagnosis who have no health insurance and very limited resources.
Mrs. M is a 62-year-old woman from high in the Andes Mountains. Life was difficult in her home country, as there were few opportunities for education or employment.
For these and other reasons, 26 years ago, she and her husband moved to the US. Life has not been easy, as they have had to work hard in low-paying jobs, but they have been safe and now think of the US as their home. Since their jobs do not provide health insurance, Mrs. M decided to get a physical last December while on her first trip home to visit family. She had noticed a small thickening on her breast, but she attributed it to an injury she had while working in a kitchen and falling against a hard metal object. The doctor was concerned, and after an abnormal mammogram, a breast biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer. She was immediately started on chemotherapy, which was difficult to endure. She credits her faith for getting her through the experience. The good news for her was that her tumor shrank dramatically with the chemotherapy. The bad news was that a nodule was found in her lung. She began more chemotherapy, but as she is a legal US resident, she was forced to return to the US or lose her legal status. She arrived back in Arlington this past June, without insurance, and not feeling well enough to return to work. She made an appointment with Virginia Cancer Specialists, with the hope that somehow they would be able to pay for treatment. Plans were made to learn more about the lung nodules. She was referred to AFC, which acts as a medical home and source of referrals to charity care. Between Virginia Cancer Specialists and Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), she received CT scans, PET scans, bone scans, all of which were negative, except for some nodules in her lung, which were thought probably not to be cancerous. Her oncologist wanted to rule-out cancer so that she would receive exactly the treatment that she needed, so lung biopsies were arranged through the generosity of the VHC’s Department of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery. Finally, in September, she was told that she does NOT have metastatic disease. Mrs. M is now getting ready for breast surgery, with the generous support of the Breast Center at VHC. She will have AFC’s ongoing support, which is connecting her with a Spanish-speaking support organization and providing navigation for all her medical needs. The Clinic offers primary and specialty medical care, gynecology, and mental health services. Our pharmacy is able to supply most medications for very a small co-pay.