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In The Pipeline: Cancer survivor needs help

March 07, 2012|By Chris Epting

In January, my daughter Claire and I spoke at Sowers Middle School for Author's Day. Before the first speech, a woman (whose 11-year-old daughter attends Sowers) approached me in the hall with a suggestion for this column: "Why don't you write about cancer?"

We chatted for a few minutes, and she told me that two years ago, she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer, that she read this column and thought I might like to tell her story. We talked a bit more and, in her eyes, I saw someone who truly wanted to share her experience. So here we are.

At a Starbucks near Magnolia Street and Adams Avenue, we met recently, and Machelle Murray recounted for me how, two years ago this St. Patrick's Day, while taking a shower, she noticed a bruise on her right breast. She also felt a hard lump beneath. Not thinking too much of it, thinking perhaps she had simply bumped into something, she let her doctor know what she discovered.

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His concern surprised her, so she agreed to have it checked out. What surprised her more was the almost immediate concern she detected from the radiologist who took her X-ray. After a sickening whirlwind of ultrasounds and mammograms, she was given the dreaded diagnosis: cancer, and an aggressive one at that. Just days later, she was operated on, and then she endured many brutal rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.

Murray, who grew up in Huntington Beach and attended Eader Elementary and Edison High, spoke of her struggle matter-of-factly and with a certain toughness. But she is in pain and frustrated and could use a little advice.

See, through a series of unfortunate timings and decisions by her employers at the medical office she once ran, right now Murray has no health insurance, so she can't see her doctors as she needs to. She told me she can't get on permanent disability, her disability payments have run out, she can't get employment because she is disabled, and that currently, she has no clue what her options are.

She is feeling sick and has an itching sensation on her side that one doctor explained might be symptomatic of a recurrence of the cancer, which frustrates her even more.

Murray told me she knows there are other women out there with cancer who are going through similar hardship issues. She wanted to create some awareness in the event that any readers of this column might be able to provide some advice on how to tackle the system — or lack of system when one falls on hard times.

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