For more than 35 years, Susan G. Komen® has been fighting alongside trailblazers in communities across the country who have committed their lives to helping create a world without breast cancer. Andrew Gardner, community health director and cancer program leader, is on the front lines in the fight against breast cancer, working to save lives every day by ensuring all women can get an accurate diagnosis and begin the treatment they need, regardless of their ability to pay.
Susan G. Komen recently sat down with Andrew to learn more about how his work is helping to decrease the health care disparity in our communities. Here is what he had to say.
Question: What services are you providing for breast cancer patients?
Answer: We service women and men who have breast cancer or may have breast cancer. So, we do a lot of screening around mammography and ultrasound to help with the diagnosis and treatment of that disease.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the patients you see?
A: We see insured patients, but we also have those patients that have no insurance or are underinsured, which are the ones that are most at risk because those are the people who don’t tend to get into the system to get the treatment that they need. With Susan G Komen, we no longer have to turn patients away. Those patients that were uninsured or underinsured, Susan G Komen has helped us because we can now take them from a screening to the actual diagnosis and get them into treatment.
Q: Would you mind sharing a story on one of the patients that you guys have seen and helped?
A: A young lady came in for a screening. She didn’t have the money to have a screening done… Susan G. Komen [funding helped] to get her screening done. The screening was positive. We weren’t initially able to make contact with her, so we followed up with the physician. I got the young lady to come back and we followed up with some further testing and a biopsy, and she was actually able to get in treatment. She told us that had we not been persistent in getting her back for further testing, she wouldn’t have come back to find the diagnosis.
A: My mother is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed over 10 years ago, and I still remember getting the phone call. She said she was at the doctor’s office and they felt a lump in her breast. The emotion that she had while she was telling me, and how scared and frightened she was about going through the process… getting the diagnostic mammogram to getting the biopsy done to standing there with her as they rolled her into surgery was heart-wrenching. And even when she got the surgery, her coming out and the emotion around her, what she perceived as a disfigurement, [was] heart-wrenching.
Q: You’re fighting this disease every single day. Transforming people’s lives; saving women. So, what does that mean to you when you think about that?
A: I think in the 21st century, we should be able to eradicate cancer. Being a part of this journey and being able to be a part of making that happen, is priceless. It’s the most important work somebody can do… helping people is what matters the most. The most important thing that somebody can do in their lifetime is serve somebody else. There’s nothing more important today than that.
Cancer touches so many lives. It’s not just the lives of the patients – and I can say this personally – it’s the lives of family members, it’s the lives of neighbors, it’s the lives of friends, its whole communities. We have to help, and if not us, then who? Somebody has to do it, and it might as well be me.