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About eight months ago, 45-year-old Polly “P.J.” Jensen noticed a lump under her left arm.
She was unable to afford health insurance and ineligible for Medicaid.
“So I kind of set it aside at the time – something I should have never done,” P.J. said. “Something every women should never do.”
After a while, the mild discomfort became painful tenderness. “It got to the point that I couldn’t wear anything tight around that area.”
She finally went to the doctor early this month.
“I went to Trenton Medical Center – they’re great because they actually go by your income. They set you up with a co-pay on a sliding scale.” With P.J.’s fixed income, money was tight.
“But then they sent me to Dr. Weinshelbaum in Gainesville for a mammogram and sonogram. I panicked because I knew that was going to cost,” she said. “I was uncomfortable until I walked in the first time – it was like walking into a family.”
Dr. Weinshelbaum’s office suggested she call a program called Florida Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, known regionally as Believe in Miracles.
“I had an appointment that afternoon.”
What P.J. found was not quite what she had expected. Her left side was fine. Turns out the pain and discomfort was just tissue build-up that wasn’t anything to worry about at all. What a relief.
In her right breast, however, there was a spot the size of a penny.
A surgical biopsy was scheduled for the following Wednesday.
“Last Friday at 3:45 I got a phone call saying that everything was fine,” P.J. said. “I don’t have cancer.”
They placed a titanium microchip next to the spot for future mammograms so they don’t biopsy it again, she said. She returns for a follow up in six months – also covered by the program.
P.J. is currently the Cedar Key Eagles Club Ladies Auxiliary President. Right now she is working on starting a business with her art, utilizing skills she honed over decades as a taxidermist. She hopes to have it up and running this winter.
After more than 20 years as a taxidermist, upon moving to the island, she worked as the butcher and meat manager at the Market for four years. “I loved working there – I met a lot of wonderful people – I miss them.”
The cancer scare along with the help and support she experienced has been quite moving for P.J. and led her to reflect on her six years in Cedar Key.
“There have been many people and organizations that have helped me in the past – and they know who they are,” P.J. said. “I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. If there’s anything I can do for them, I will do it.”
“When you see something like that in your body, it can be breathtaking. It can change you. It has changed me. I just hope some day I can help someone the way others have helped me.”
P.J. wants every woman who may find herself in a similar situation to know that there are resources available. “Just because you don’t have medical insurance or the income – there is help out there. And all women should have this checked – I didn’t feel anything where they found the spot and it was the size of a penny.”
The Statewide “Florida Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program” is for women between the ages of 50 and 64 who are uninsured or underinsured, and have low-income.
It provides free or reduced-cost mammograms, clinical breast exams, and Pap smears. Diagnostic exams and treatment are also available if needed. Occasionally, as in P.J.’s case, women outside of the intended age group can also qualify.
Funding comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which sponsors the national program, serving 50 states, 14 Indian Tribes, and seven territories.
For more information, visit www.doh.state.fl.us/family/bcc.
Contact Kellie Parkin at email@example.com.