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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Margia's Story

By Margia Corner

One of my most deeply held values –and the reason that I became part of PMS in the first place—is that I believe that everyone should have access to affordable health care and other basic needs that are essential to living a healthy and fulfilling life. #universalcoverage I first participated in a PMS salon in 2017 as a speaker invited to talk about the threats posed by Republic-led legislative efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. I felt so inspired and galvanized by the energy of the women I met that night, and their commitment to taking action to promote social justice and protect access to health care (including in particular reproductive health services) that I immediately joined myself!

I’ve worked as a health care regulatory lawyer for more than a decade. My entire professional career has been dedicated to the premise that everyone should have access to health care, regardless of their ability to pay. Although it sounds trite, this year my commitment to that principle has become even more personal.

In July 2021, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Thankfully, the prognosis for me making a full recovery and living a long and health life was excellent. Because I have always had robust health insurance through my employers, I’ve known that my genetics and family history put me at a much higher risk and have had screening mammograms, breast MRI, ultrasounds and blood tests every six months for nearly a decade. (And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I’ve never had to pay out of pocket for any of those tests!) And I am so grateful that meant my cancer was caught so early—stage 0, non-invasive DCIS.

Last month, I had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction to treat my cancer and reduce my risk of recurrence to less than 5 percent. (Otherwise my risk of recurrence would be more than 30 percent). I am beyond thrilled to share that the surgery was successful. Pathology reports confirm that I’m now officially cancer-free! I won’t need chemotherapy, radiation, or endocrine therapy.

Although I still have a ways to go in my recovery and reconstruction, including a second surgery in early 2022, I am lucky. I am deeply grateful for the team of health care professionals handling my care, from the breast surgeon and plastic surgeon, to the pre-op and post-op nurses, to the nuclear medicine tech at the hospital and the medical assistants checking my blood pressure at my visits each week. I continue to be impressed by their competence, their humor and their capacity for compassion. Thanks to my health insurance, all of this care has been affordable. All told, my out-of-pocket costs to date for the surgery, imaging, laboratory services, medications, and pre and post-op visits have been less than $500. I am grateful to my employer, my boss, and my colleagues, who made it possible for me to take six weeks paid medical leave to recover from surgery. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve also been deeply touched by the love and support of my husband, my family and friends, and countless women who I’ve never met before who are willing to share their personal experiences with a near-stranger. So what can we do to make sure that everyone has access to the same care and support that I have had? Here are just a few ideas:

1. Do something kind for any of the health care workers you know

2. Volunteer at your local hospital or vaccination clinic

3. Tell your Members of Congress that investing in health care and public health is a critical part of the infrastructure of this country, and while they are at it, they should also invest more in educating health care and mental health professionals, as well as basic biomedical and public health research.

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