“Look me in the eye and talk to me before you start palpating my breasts,” says media queen Casey Quinlan, author of an autobiographical account that follows her cancer diagnosis and experience with the American medical system. Quinlan is a breast-cancer-survivor-turned-health-activist whose rich, dark humor educates those who want to know how manage medical care.
With no apparent symptoms and very little experience with cancer in her past, the former news field producer was surprised by the life-threatening discovery after her 15th mammogram in 2007. “And as you age, you’re more able to grasp the concept that, ‘Crap, you’re right, I’m not going to live forever,'” says Quinlan, “But it had been a struggle to process this.”
Through nine days over Christmas she tried to live and work as normal while taking further tests and awaiting the results. The uncertainty of her future was a constant presence in her thoughts. She got her sister to visit over the festive period. “I didn’t want to tell her (about the cancer) on the phone,” she says. “Once she knew, we shared the news with the rest of the family and celebrated the holiday anyway. I always prefer a party to a funeral.”
When others heard about her diagnosis Quinlan was surprised by how many women told her they’d been through the same thing, including a Susan G. Komen Foundation educator who supplied her with “heaps of paperwork – everything you wanted to know about the Breast Cancer battle.” She heard stories that both astonished and fascinated her, and which taught the importance of being her own best friend when it comes to medical care.
Encouraged and unafraid, she determined to find doctors who would take her visits seriously. Now she wants others facing illness to do the same, “Don’t be a meat puppet,” she says. “Don’t get yourself run through a conveyor belt. Ask questions, get help to formulate a plan, and then surrender to the process.”
Once diagnosed with a disease like breast cancer, all the worry over a “worst case scenario” moves out of the way. “You know what you have to deal with and early detection is good!” For Quinlan, early detection has made the probability of long-term survival very good. “Find the right team and hope for the best – which more than likely will happen.”
Details of how Quinlan held ambush interviews to find the right physicians and pulled together her own winning team are outlined in her book Cancer for Christmas, available in its second edition on Amazon.