Legislators: Hope, optimism are key when dealing with breast cancer

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This month, Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, has taken up such contentious issues as literacy and abortion prevention, seeing both advance to the House floor. But there is another, more personal, issue that grabbed her attention during the month of October.

Price stood with fellow Rep. Kathy Crawford, R-Novi, before the full House of Representatives on Oct. 1, asking for and receiving approval to recognize October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Pictured, from left: State Reps. Amanda Price, Ken Goike and Kathy Crawford.

Price is a breast cancer survivor, and defeated an illness that led to the death of her mother and grandmother. Anger was the first emotion that gripped her upon receiving a diagnosis at 44 years old.

“I was pretty angry,” admitted Rep. Price. “I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink. I nursed my children. I was fit.

“I found out I had one of the two breast cancer genes, so I was genetically pre-disposed to a cancer diagnosis,” she added from her Lansing office. “I was angry because I had done everything I could do to prevent it.”

Price has used that drive, not uncommon to what her fellow representatives have seen from her since first being elected by the 89th District, in looking at her options. Fortunately, the diagnosis was zero stage, meaning the cancer was still limited to the cellular level, had not spread and she had options for treatment.

She met with nine surgeons, joking “I did not get second opinions, I got third opinions.”

Her decision was a bilateral mastectomy, undergoing the surgery at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. It proved to be a painful option even today, but Price is appreciative that she avoided the radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

“When I was growing up, my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer and my three sisters and I were always afraid of getting cancer,” said Rep. Price. “I didn’t have to go through any of the chemo and radiation treatments my mother experienced and for that I am thankful.”

BreastCancerAware_1015_5Price is not alone in her fight. Crawford was diagnosed just over a year ago – during the challenging days leading up to a primary election. She also was fortunate to get it detected early, but not too early to avoid surgery and radiation treatments.

“In spite of all of that, I felt so fortunate,” said Rep. Crawford, who went through six weeks of radiation at Providence Park Hospital in Novi. “There’s always going to be somebody you meet during the process that is so much worse and has so much more to deal with. No matter how bad your situation is … there are bigger obstacles.

“I was really glad for the experience, which may sound weird because I went through it all firsthand,” Rep. Crawford added. “To see how it impacts the lives of people and their families, it’s pretty powerful.”

Another House member has been touched by breast cancer and has yet to go through surgery, radiation or chemotherapy treatments. He’s also a male, who are increasingly being diagnosed with the unique form of cancer.

“Breast cancer is really something that is also very near and dear to me because it’s something I have to be aware of,” said Rep. Ken Goike, who has lost two spouses to different forms of cancer. “I’ve had two mammograms in the past two years because I have lumps on my left breast. It does affect men and I’d like to get that word out as well.

CommTest_Goike_0413_6“It’s not only a women’s issue,” he emphasized. “It’s a men’s issue as well.”

Breast cancer is often a devastating issue for anyone diagnosed with it, but perspective is still possible to help during the fight.

For example, Rep. Price was diagnosed on a terrible day in our country’s history – Sept. 11, 2001. Her surgery took place in October, approximately 14 years ago.

Rep. Crawford has her own, more personal lessons.

“The staff (at Providence Park hospital) told me to ‘ring the bell,’” she said, mentioning a device in many cancer treatment wards to signal that a cancer sufferer had completed treatment. “I thought ‘this is so silly,’ but when I rang the bell all the other patients were so happy. They could see somebody was ending their treatment, something that’s good is happening. I rang that bell to give hope to other people.

“You can’t lose hope. You have to be optimistic.”