As a young wife and mother, I endured the devastating effects of watching my beloved mother die of cancer. My mom was diagnosed with stomach cancer when I was expecting my second child. I attended her funeral with my 5-month-old baby in my arms.
Without notice, cancer came knocking at my door once again. In October of 2012, I was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. First the shock set in, then guilt riddled my mind. All I could think about was leaving my family with the same hurt and broken hearts as I was left with. I was determined to fight. Most women are diagnosed at a late stage and most do not survive the first year. There is no screening tool for ovarian. After a lifetime of good health, I would be facing certain surgery and life altering treatments that strip even the best of us of our pride and dignity, make us sick as dogs, bald as eagles and thin as a rail.
In a way, the surgery and recovery was the easy part. Finding the right doctor was distressing. A referral from your primary care physician or another cancer patient is a good place to start. Get a second opinion or even a third. Know your options and do your homework. Find out what questions to ask. Knowing your treatment choices is a must. It is a struggle, but it can be done. The more information you have, the less likely you are to step on a land mine. With the guidance of friends and family and great caretakers, I made it through.
Being a cancer survivor, a daughter of a cancer victim and a mother of a child with cancer has given me the incomprehensible understanding of the consequences left by this unrelenting disease. The cost is staggering, and people must sometimes leave jobs, relocate and spend their life savings in order to receive the proper medical care. All cancer patients — no matter what the diagnosis or residence — deserve the best medical choices and the highest level of quality care available.
This legislative session, policymakers will hear several bills related to cancer. One such bill is a resolution on ovarian cancer awareness. Rep. Heather Carter, chairwoman of the House Health Committee, is the sponsor. It designates the first Friday of September as Arizona’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day, describes the symptoms of ovarian cancer, the dismal statistics and the need for an ovarian cancer evaluation center for symptomatic women, women who are genetically at risk and women with existing identified abnormalities.
Another bill, SB1247, sponsored by Sen. Adam Driggs, is the Fair Access to Cancer Treatment Act. The FACT Act seeks cost parity for patients who are currently taking oral chemotherapy drugs instead of traditional intravenous (IV) chemo. The bill would require insurers that already offer coverage of IV cancer treatments to also cover oral chemotherapy at the same medical benefit as IV.
I hope that both of these measures pass, and I encourage you to call or write your lawmakers to support these important bills. Together, one day we will find a cure, and these are important steps in that direction.
— Laura Knaperek is a former chair of the Appropriations Committee in the state House of Representatives.