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Self-exam catches breast cancer early

Susan Lanier came out of her cancer struggle with more than the side effects of chemotherapy and a hefty bill.
“It was a lesson,” said the 39-year-old breast cancer survivor. “I don’t have control.”
The wife and mother of two had always been the kind of woman who liked to make plans. Now, three years after first being diagnosed, she knows to “let things happen as they should and not plan so much and schedule so much.”
Lanier discovered a lump in her breast during a self-examination. She credits family friend Patricia Rhyne, who passed away after a battle with breast cancer, for inspiring her to take action.
“She was my angel,” she said. “She’s what is allowing me to be here with my boys today.”
Lanier hopes her own experience with breast cancer encourages others to do monthly self-exams.
“It’s very important,” she said. “If I hadn’t found it as early as I did, I may not be here today.”
After the initial “total shock” of discovering the cancerous lump, Lanier agreed to take an aggressive route in fighting the disease, which included a lumpectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 37 radiation treatments.
“If you don’t get it the first time, you have to deal with it the rest of your life,” she said.
She has been cancer-free since the surgery, but still lives with the knowledge the disease could come back.
“We live in percentages now,” she said.
Each year she’s cancer-free, she’s more likely to remain that way.
That said, “You can never feel 100 percent sure.”
The disease has affected her entire family, especially her oldest boy Sam, now 9, who could understand what was happening more than her youngest son, Jonah, now 6.
“It was really hard on him,” Lanier said. “We think about it every day.”
It was also hard on her husband, the boys’ father, Tracy.
“It was rough for me to watch her go through it because you couldn’t do anything. If a kid scraped their arm, you can put a Band-Aid on it,” he said. “This you have to sit and watch.”
As of now, however, it seems like the Laniers don’t need to fret over the disease.
The medical bills, on the other hand, remain a presence in their lives.
Although the Laniers have insurance, the cost of fighting cancer is still steep.
“Ten percent of $300,000 is a lot of money,” Lanier said.
She says she can’t imagine what happens to people who don’t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and don’t have insurance.
“Our medical system just isn’t what it should be,” she said.
What she is happy about, however, is being able to spend more years with her boys. A former graphic designer, she’s taken a break from deadlines to spend more time with her family.
After a stint as a preschool teacher, she is now an assistant teacher at Battleground Elementary School.
She hopes to get a graduate degree in art and eventually become an art teacher.
“Having kids and then this happening has really made me want to be more family-oriented,” she said.
by Sarah Grano

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