Navy veteran survives breast cancer, but despite support from Komen San Diego and other community resources still struggles financially and physically from her treatments

Navy veteran and San Diego resident, Tracy Allen discovered a lump in her breast in 2017.

“I never had a mammogram because I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer and I thought it would be painful, said Allen. “So, every year when I was asked to get one, I would decline. I just felt like I didn’t have to go through that.”

Although a family history of certain types of cancer can increase your risk of breast cancer, most women diagnosed with breast cancer don’t have a family history of the disease.

“One day I found a lump on the side of my left breast. I decided to get it checked out. I was put through a series of tests and before being diagnosed with breast cancer, it was discovered that I had type-ll diabetes. I was self-employed at the time and trying to supplement my income with driving for Uber and Lyft. Once I began taking medications for diabetes and then chemo, I was unable to work and it made my financial situation even more challenging.”

Not enough people know that the hidden costs of breast cancer are staggering.

The costs related to breast cancer treatment can quickly become a financial burden. You may get many bills for just one procedure. For example, you may get a bill from each department in the hospital involved with your surgery such as the lab (pathology), surgery and others. Even if your co-payment for a single bill is low, these costs add up.

Fortunately for Tracy the Veteran Affairs Hospital paid for her treatment and services but like so many other cancer patients, out-of-pocket costs also add to one’s financial burden. Tracy did not have money saved before her diagnosis and was unable to work during treatment. She also did not qualify for unemployment and was denied disability. Without money coming in, rent, food prices aren’t cheap, especially if you need to improve your nutrition by eating certain foods. Driving to and from doctors’ appointments and treatment sessions can cause your gas costs to skyrocket. Or, if you need to pay for a ride with Uber, Lyft, or a taxi, these can easily cost in the hundreds every week.

Komen San Diego provided financial assistance for breast cancer patients like Tracy’s most critical needs during treatment. Support can include care coordination, copays, childcare, rent/mortgage, utilities, transportation, food assistance, breast prosthetics, lymphedema sleeves, post mastectomy bras, and any breast cancer related medical device.

Komen San Diego paid Tracy’s rent for a month while she was in treatment and her landlords worked with her. “I’m appreciative of the support but I’m still suffering from chemo brain and memory issues,” said Allen. “I was denied social security disability and I am still struggling.”

The breast cancer movement in San Diego has come a long way in 25 years. Tracy received patient navigation and had access to support services like Komen, but the financial struggles are still very present for many women and families in our community like Tracy. Additionally, African American women have a 40% higher mortality rate from breast cancer than white women in San Diego. Please visit Komen San Diego’s Health Equity Action Plan for more information on how Komen is addressing these disparities head on and how you can help.