Stephanie remembers, “I was sitting in the infusion clinic getting my chemotherapy, and I heard a patient nearby talking about how she didn’t know how she was going to get home because of the gas expenses. That should not be a concern for a patient.”
She shared that experience with her husband, Eric. A second issue also pulled at them. “Throughout my diagnostic process, Eric and I had heard the statistic one in nine women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Not one in 100 or one in 1,000. We decided to do something to help patients and work in the community to raise awareness of breast cancer incidence and screening. 1in9 was born.”
Stephanie’s own cancer journey began in September 2010 with the discovery by her gynecologist: a lump in her breast. A mammogram was scheduled three days later. “I knew something was wrong when the technician said, ‘Hold on a minute. I want to bring the doctor in to see this.’ I asked the doctor how concerned, on a scale of one to 10, she was about what he saw. She said an eight or nine.”
A biopsy confirmed the concern: cancer and a metastatic spot in the other breast. “At that moment, I felt the numbness, the madness and fright that every cancer patient experiences with a cancer diagnosis.”
Stephanie opted for a double mastectomy, thinking, “I’ve got to be here for a long time. My children are all so young.” Stephanie and Eric have three children: daughters Libby, was then 18 months old, and Lawson, then six and a half; son, Charlie, was then 5. She had her surgery at Rex Hospital in Raleigh where she and her family and her parents live.
She conferred with Dr. Olufunmilayo (Funmi) Olopade at the University of Chicago, the physician of a friend of the Beguelins. “She put me in touch with Dr. Lisa Carey at UNC Lineberger. I knew that Rex and UNC worked together. Eric and I went with my sister-in-law, who is a former hospital administrator, to visit UNC. When I met Dr. Carey, nurse navigator Deborah Ballard and Anna Kate Owens, I knew I had come to the right place.”
Stephanie then met with Dr. Keith Amos about post-surgery care and reconstruction. A second sentinel node biopsy report showed a tumor cluster on the node, so chemotherapy and radiation were recommended. With an entourage of friends and family with her for each visit, she finished chemo in January of 2011 and radiation at the end of March. She had a challenging pneumonia in August, requiring a 10-day stay in the hospital, but is now feeling better.
And 1in9 is thriving. Stephanie explains, “I can’t believe what has happened in one year with 1in9. We’ve done so many things. UNC’s social workers and nurse navigators determine a patient’s need and refer them to us. We have provided gas cards, food, co-pays for expensive cancer medications, even thermometers. We work with the UNC staff because they know the patients and will be working long-term with the patients, past 1in9’s six to nine month time frame.
“Our first-ever Pink Shamrock Race had 650 runners and raised $25,000. The Paint It Pink Gala in Raleigh, in honor of Kim Sibbach and benefitting 1in9, raised $18,000. I have met some of the most incredible people- patients, family members, donors, and corporate sponsors. They just want to help.”
“We were so fortunate to have such strong support from our family, our friends, and our church. Not everyone does. Even if we help just a little, we need to give back. You don’t have that epiphanic moment with God until something life changing happens, and you’re faced with your mortality. You can either make something positive out of it or not. We chose to make it positive.”
To learn more about 1in9, its programs and the people it serves, visit 1in9.com.