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Survivor Story: Gina Corbin

Posted by Pete Visintin on

 (Gina pictured above right)

Written by Misty Fritz
Contributed by Betsy Fenton

Gina Corbin was getting dressed in a hotel room bathroom at the end of August 2014 when she noticed her right breast was shaped oddly on the right edge.  As soon as she got home, she made an appointment for a mammogram, which she should have had a few months prior. 

The mammogram confirmed her fear that she had a lump in her right breast.  The radiologist immediately sent her for an ultrasound, which confirmed the area was cancerous.  A biopsy was set up for the next week. 

During the biopsy, the ultrasound tech noticed a second area in the same breast, so both areas were biopsied.  The next week, she got confirmation that both areas were cancerous.  She was then sent to a surgical oncologist at the Simmons Cancer Center in Springfield. 

That doctor ordered a bilateral breast MRI, which showed a third area of cancer in the right breast.  Gina decided to have the genetic testing done to find out if she had the breast cancer gene that could pass to her daughters; she did not have the gene. 

Given the option of a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, Gina chose the double mastectomy to hopefully prevent a recurrence of the cancer.  She was then sent to a plastic surgeon who let her know about all the reconstruction options that were available.  

She decided to have the surgeon use abdominal tissue to reconstruct both breasts, which resulted in her having an incision from hip to hip in addition to her breast incisions.  On November 17th, Gina reported to St. John's Hospital in Springfield, IL with surgery planned to start at 7am. 

Instead, the surgery was delayed until approximately noon and lasted until about 4 a.m. the next day – a total of 16 hours.  After she had been in the ICU for a few days for close monitoring, Gina had to have a second surgery on Nov. 21 to remove a clot from one of the arteries in the right breast; doctors took a vein graft from her left ankle to replace the artery.

That surgery lasted approximately eight hours.  On Nov. 23, doctors did a bedside procedure to the right breast because they suspected infection; however, none was found.  That procedure resulted in her having two open wounds on that breast to allow drainage to escape. 

On Dec. 2, Gina moved from the ICU to a regular floor.  While she was there, the oncologist informed Gina that the lymph node on the right side did contain some cancerous cells.  As a result, she would need radiation, which she later found out would mean 35 total treatments. 

She finally came home on Dec. 5, after spending two and a half weeks in the hospital.  On Dec. 9, three inches of her abdominal incision busted open, which necessitated a visit to the emergency room at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield to have it stitched closed.  

Due to the open wounds on her right breast, Gina had to have a skin graft on two areas on Dec. 22, which resulted in needing a wound vac for four days to optimize healing for the area.  On Jan. 13, Gina found out she would need oral chemotherapy (Tamoxifen) for 10 years, but it would not start until right after she finished the radiation treatments. 

She would not need IV chemo.  On February 25th, Gina went to the Baylis Building (associated with Memorial Hospital in Springfield, IL) for a second reconstruction surgery, which lasted about six hours. She returned home the next day. 

Gina was unable to start radiation until all wounds to the right breast were healed.  Her first treatment was on March 31st and will continue until approximately Memorial Day 2015.  

A year after radiation is done, Gina will undergo a third (hopefully final) reconstruction due to the breast tissue changes caused by the radiation.  Thankfully, Gina had health insurance through work, as well as an individual cancer-specific policy, which combined covered approximately $235,000 of the $275,000 in medical bills she has accumulated so far. 

However, that amount is still growing, as it does not include the radiation, Tamoxifen, or the third reconstruction.  Gina's last day at work before her surgery was November 14th though she had been told her employer would hold her job for her.  However, she was terminated on March 6th due to not having a definite date she could return to work after the most recent reconstruction, and her Family Medical Leave Act time off had run out. 

She does have long-term disability, but it only covers approximately half of her paycheck, and she had to change to COBRA insurance, which costs more than $1,000 per month.  She hopes to return to work shortly after her radiation treatments are complete!

-Misty

More than 50% of the proceeds from all Fight the Fight purchases made between December 13th, 2015 and December 27th, 2015 will be donated to Gina to help cover her medical related expenses.


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