BRAvo! Mammogram “Saved my life” // I am thankful
On a nice day, Claudia Middleton is outside – hiking, swimming, fishing and spending time with her husband, Donnie. She is a free-spirit and she appreciates life now more than ever. In 2012, Claudia celebrated her parents’ 60th wedding anniversary in Florida. When she returned, life as she knew it came to a screeching halt.
Claudia reached to scratch her side as she was going about her day. Then she felt a small lump. She knew she needed a mammogram right away. “I had no medical coverage,” Claudia said. Her husband worked in construction and didn’t have insurance. “I knew I could get free mammograms at Reid.”
She called and was able to get an appointment just a few days later. “It was really simple,” she said. When a patient calls Reid Central Scheduling, they ask a few easy questions, and if a woman is over 40 years old and uninsured, the screening is covered by the Community Benefit Mammogram program and funded through BRAvo!
The staff explained to Claudia there was a need for an ultrasound and later, a biopsy. Surgeon Dr. Thomas Grayson performed the procedure. She soon received the diagnosis of breast cancer. “Dr. Grayson told me all my options, and I went home and talked to Donnie,” she said. “Donnie told me to do what I needed to do. The choice was mine and he would support me no matter what.” After giving it thought, Claudia chose what she considered to be the safest option and had a mastectomy.
One week later, Claudia’s father, Gene, was also diagnosed with cancer – for the second time. As Claudia was navigating through procedures and decisions, her father was doing the same. And her mother was in poor health as well. “The entire cancer department was awesome,” said Claudia.
Reid cancer navigators walked them through each step, providing them with necessary resources and answering any questions they had. Navigator Kathy MacDonald helped Claudia apply for health coverage through Indiana Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCCP), which covers testing and treatment for underserved and underinsured women who qualify for services.
As Claudia lay on the surgical bed awaiting surgery, she became very nervous. “I was starting to freak out, and I said ‘Where is Dr. Grayson?’” Claudia explained. “He came right over and held my hand until I was out.”
Claudia and Gene took turns with chemotherapy – one in the morning, the other in the afternoon – so they could take Claudia’s mother to and from dialysis and doctor appointments. Chemo was followed by radiation. “Kristen Cole (nurse) knew exactly what I wanted. She met me with pillows and blankets and let me sleep through my treatments,” Claudia said. “Dr. Riggs and her nurse, Lisa Mustang, were awesome!”
“I remember the day they told me I was cancer-free. I called my dad first,” Claudia said. “I said, ‘Dad, we did it!’ We both cried.”
Gene came through with flying colors as well, and was given nearly two more years with his family before facing a heart issue. He cared for the love of his life until her dying day, and Claudia cared for him until he recently passed away.
“My dad was so strong. I was so proud of him,” Claudia said. She is thankful for the care she and her parents received. “The Breast Center, Cancer Center, Heart Center and Hospice – they are all amazing! Nice is great, but in the long run I want skilled – Dr. Grayson and Dr. Riggs were both.”
Claudia is strong like her dad. She overcame adversity and challenges with grace, and now she is back to appreciating and enjoying life with her husband.
“Without BRAvo!, I probably would have died of cancer. It saved my life, and probably lots of others…thank you.”