Bowman, who still lives with cancer, estimates that a mammogram can cost about $3,200 and an MRI $5,600, far more than many local residents can afford without insurance.
“You can see why people are going bankrupt — because they can’t afford it,” Bowman said. “Their medical bills can be too much.”
“That’s why a lot of people find out too late,” Bowman said. “They can’t afford it, and people don’t do it if they don’t have insurance and cannot afford it.”
She said even calling a family physician or OB/GYN just to get forms filled out so a local hospital technician can perform a mammogram or MRI can cost as much as an office visit.
“Sometimes you’re just calling that doctor to get that slip, and guess what?” Bowman said. “They charge you just like it was an office visit.”
Bowman, a Toledo resident, has made only one trip to the Cleveland Clinic and avoided most other out-of-town cancer institutions because of travel costs, too.
“I would love to go somewhere else but I cannot afford it,” she said.
Bowman, who spoke to the Oregon-Northwood Rotary Club on behalf of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, understands the pain of having to live with a life-threatening illness after finding out too late. It’s happened to her more than once.
In January 2005, she was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, stage III.
“It took me 16 months to bounce back in which I had six chemotherapy treatment drugs which lasted seven months, four weeks of radiation, two breast cancer surgeries, a major blood clot in my neck, I had to take 22 pills and had many infections,” Bowman said. “I came back stronger than ever and returned to work in late spring of 2007.”
For many cancer survivors, that was enough.
“Everything seemed find and great,” Bowman said.
She prayed to be cancer free, but it was not to be. To be cancer free one must have three positive PET scans. Her third PET scan was held this past January, which indicated several negative readings.
“My life was turned upside-down once again,” Bowman said. “Emotionally and financially I didn’t know what to do. With strength and courage, everything will work out.”
Bowman endured another breast surgery, two chemotherapy drugs which she still takes, and was in Stage II of Irreversible Lymphodema.
Her diagnosis was Metastatic Breast Cancer, Stage IV. She said to understand that, one has to have a Master’s Degree, but she described it as meaning her cancer had spread to other organs.
“The point I am trying to make is be responsible for your health,” Bowman said. “Don’t let the little signs go by without informing someone or your doctor. We all need to be preventive.”
Bowman said all the signs were there for her, including family history. She says if you have the gene, chances are you will be affected by it.
Her father had prostrate cancer, her sister had breast cancer, and her sister’s two daughters both had breast cancer.
“In my family, you just don’t talk about it,” Bowman said. “That’s just the way it is and you know it, but you just keep it quiet.
“Everybody hears all the statistics and they seem to know everything about it,” she continued. “My biggest thing is awareness.”
Free Testing Available
Bowman was brought to speak to the local Rotary Club on behalf of her 15 years of experience with local Boy Scout organizations. Bowman is Eagle Bay district director for the Erie Shores Council, Boy Scouts of America.
Rotary member David Kirchmaier, who also works for Boy Scouts of America, calls Bowman “a great inspiration” and “motivator.” Bowman talked Kirchmaier into participating in the Race for the Cure in downtown Toledo several weeks back.
Bowman also participated in her third Race for the Cure, an event that brought 20,000 people downtown and so far has raised $138,000 and counting.
“By gosh, you get there and look around and there are all these colorful shirts — miles and miles of people walking around,” Kirchmaier said.
Gross revenue raised from the event was about $210,000, with about 75 percent going locally. Most local funds are to provide for grants for free testing to those who cannot afford it, she said.
Bowman says women can receive additional breast health and cancer information as well as talk with others who’ve experienced breast cancer by calling the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or by visiting www.cancer.org.