FULTON, NY – As coordinator of Oswego County Opportunities Cancer Services Program Carolyn Handville often hears the phrase, “Thank You!”
However, when it is followed with “You saved my life!” it really brings the program’s impact into focus.
One year ago Phoenix resident Renee Bidwell visited the NOCHSI Health Center in Phoenix with a rather curious health concern.
“As we were discussing Renee’s health issue I noticed that she hadn’t had a PAP test in three years,” said Rosanne Foster NP. “When I asked her why, she said that she did not have health insurance and since she never had an abnormal PAP test she felt as though she didn’t need one.”
Having worked at the health center for the past seven years, Foster was well aware of OCO’s Cancer Services Program and had referred several of her patients to the program.
When she told Bidwell about the program and suggested that she take advantage of it Bidwell was hesitant.
“I’d heard of OCO’s Cancer Services Program but I didn’t think it was for me. I thought it was for those that may be unemployed. I have a job, I just couldn’t afford to buy health insurance,” said Bidwell.
Foster explained that access to the Cancer Services Program is not based on income; rather the program is there for those that cannot afford health insurance, or have health insurance with very high deductibles.
“I told Renee that I would reach out to Carolyn at the Cancer Services Program and arrange for her to have me administer the PAP test for her free of charge at our health center. She was very grateful and it put her to ease to know that she could have the PAP test done at the health center by her primary healthcare provider,” said Foster.
When the results from Bidwell’s PAP test came back abnormal Foster noticed that while Renee did not test positive for cervical cancer the type of cells that were detected by the PAP test did raise some concerns.
To follow through on those concerns the Cancer Services Program referred Bidwell to Oswego County OBGYN for an endometrial biopsy and a colposcopy.
Those results showed normal cervical cells, however, it appeared she may have something else going on and was referred to a Surgeon in Syracuse immediately.
Once again the lack of health insurance posed a problem.
“That’s what we’re here for,” said Handville. “As I tell our consumers, ‘No Insurance… No Problem.’ We were not only able to have Renee receive her PAP test at no cost to her; we also referred her to OCO’s Navigators whom enrolled her into an insurance plan to meet her needs.”
Following the results of her endometrial biopsy and colposcopy Bidwell was referred to a surgeon that suggested she have a hysterectomy.
“When I awoke from the surgery I noticed that it was 8 o’clock at night. I remember being a little ‘foggy’ but I thought it was odd that I was out for so long. In the morning when the doctor stopped to see me he said the words I never thought I’d hear,” said Bidwell.
While performing the hysterectomy the doctor incidentally discovered that Bidwell had cancer of the fallopian tubes. He removed 57 lymph nodes and 4” of her bowels. While the results showed that Bidwell’s lymph nodes were clean and the cancer was contained to the fallopian tubes, the aggressiveness of the cancer cells required Bidwell to endure 6 rounds of chemotherapy.
“When he told me I had cancer it really didn’t sink in,” said Bidwell. “I had never had an abnormal PAP test, and while I knew something wasn’t right, I never thought I’d have cancer. The doctor told me that if he wasn’t performing the hysterectomy he would never have found the fallopian tube cancer, and that by the time I experienced any symptoms it would have been too late. I’m lucky to be alive! ”
“It’s been a real emotional rollercoaster,” continued Bidwell. “Some days are good and some days are bad. It was hard to look at myself in the mirror and see no hair, no eyebrows and not feel like a woman. It helped that I could rely on family and friends and share with them the emotions I was feeling.”
In addition to the support she received from family and friends Bidwell said that the support she has received from community members has also helped.
“I was shopping one day and had my scarf on to cover my head when I noticed a woman was looking at me. A few minutes later I saw her again and she approached me saying ‘Do you have cancer….can I give you a hug?’ Yes! I exclaimed. Afterward she told me that she had breast cancer and learned from her support group that you should show support for others and give them a hug. It meant the world to me…it helped me get through that day!” said Bidwell.
Renee’s story is just one example of the impact of OCO’s Cancer Services Program.
Regular screenings for cancer and early detection can save lives, and with the program’s mantra of “No Insurance…No Problem” there is no excuse for women and men that are uninsured or underinsured with high deductible healthcare policies not to take advantage of OCO’s Cancer Services Program and get the cancer screening they need.
“There is a reason that these procedures and these programs exist,” said Bidwell. “I was fortunate that I have a healthcare provider that I trust and respect. Rosanne treats me like part of her extended family and I’m glad I listened to her. I never thought OCO’s Cancer Services Program was for me. If it wasn’t for Rosanne urging me to access the program would I be here to enjoy my grandchildren? No! One phone call set the whole process into motion. Thanks to the concern of Carolyn and her staff at the Cancer Services Program, and the attention I received from Rosanne and the other health professionals that cared for me, I am alive today.”
“To those in need of their cancer screenings I urge you not to wait. If you don’t take care of yourselves, you won’t be there to take care of your loved ones. The doctor told me that they would never have found the cancer in my fallopian tubes and by the time I experienced symptoms it would have been too late. I’m thrilled to say that today I am in remission. OCO’s Cancer Services Program helped save my life,” she said. “If sharing my story helps just one person to begin getting their cancer screenings it’s worth it!”
Administered through Oswego County Opportunities, the Cancer Services Program Partnership offers a number of cancer screening services including: Clinical Breast Exams, Mammograms, Pap/Pelvic Exams, and Colorectal Cancer Screenings for men and women.
These screenings are available year round, free of charge, and play an important part in maintaining good health.
Northern Oswego County Health Services, Inc., is one of the many partners of the Cancer Services Program. NOCHSI Health Centers participate and offer screenings in each of their 5 locations.
For more information, or for eligibility requirements on the Cancer Services Program Partnership, contact Handville at 315-592-0830.
Did you know? OCO is a private, non-profit agency that touches the lives of thousands people each year through more than 50 programs operating in over 80 locations throughout Oswego County. The agency is celebrating 50 years of service in 2016.
For more information, visit www.oco.org