The Strength to Carry On

The Strength to Carry On

I wear many hats here at California Protons, but my main role is as a Medical Coder. What this means is that I code the procedures and diagnosis codes and make sure everything and everyone is in compliance with federal guidelines. When we have a case that requires a complicated authorization, I step in and work directly with the patient and advocate on their behalf with their insurance company. I enjoy this part of my role and I take it very seriously.

You see, no one knows more than me how important it is to have someone in your corner as you fight for your life. I am a two-time breast cancer survivor.

When I was diagnosed, I just thought, “What the heck?” I was a runner, I rode horses, I didn’t smoke. I was young; I had just turned 40. It came as a shock and it happened fast; I had a very aggressive form of breast cancer that was quick to metastasize. I had a lumpectomy at the end of October, and the Monday after Thanksgiving, a total mastectomy. Needless to say, my running went on hold. Unfortunately, things didn’t always go exactly as planned, but my family, my good friends, my husband and rock, Richard, my Shih Tzu little ball of happiness Mr. Snuffy, and humor helped carry me through, as did a special group of women.

We were all in our early to mid-40’s, all Ashkenazi Jews. And now, all breast cancer patients fighting the fight. Along with a friend, I helped found a woman’s breast cancer support group called WeSpark, of which these amazing women were a part. Generously funded in part by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, the group was there for me in countless ways. As the only living member of the original group, their memory stays with me and guides me in my treatment of patients and family members to this day. I only hope I can be as unselfish and giving to our patients as these strong and special women were to me.

After a hiatus with running, I was excited to jump back in and so I signed up to run a 5k. Having not run for a year, I decided to take it slow and work my way up to longer distances. There’s nothing like a race to get your adrenaline flowing, senses engaged and heart pumping. In all of the excitement, I blindly followed the other runners as one of the race organizers ushered us onto a bus.

As the doors of the bus closed and it slowly began to roll, I wondered, “Where is this bus taking us? I’m only running a 5k?!” Or so I thought. This bus, I quickly discovered, was driving those running the half marathon to their start line. A little panicked, I realized that I had no water, no energy snacks, no compression socks. Once again, I was completely unprepared for what life just threw at me. But there was (literally) no turning back.

So run a half marathon I did. As I ran, I thought to myself, “I can either quit, or I can keep going”, and that’s exactly what I did. I kept going, because I wasn’t about to give up. I talked to interesting people along the course. I read the encouraging, colorful signs the enthusiastic supporters were holding. I listened to the crowd excitedly cheer on the runners. I relied on muscle memory. And I finished that race.

And I realized, sometimes in life you have to rely on strong, giving, unselfish people to help you through the toughest of times, and other times you just have what it takes within you to weather the storm.

—Karen Plat

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