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Stepping Out to Fight Breast Cancer

A local woman who fought for breast cancer treatment now advocates for breast cancer awareness.

Marilys Cox, didn't just have to fight breast cancer - she had to fight to get treatment. Her journey started with a diagnosis from a self-pay mammogram, then no insurance to pay for treatment, to now being a breast cancer awareness advocate and survivor.

Cox never imagined she’d battle cancer.

“But now, I'm wearing a pink bra with fringe,” said Cox, 57. She is one of the estimated 230,480 women who were or will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, according to the National Cancer Society.

She proudly wore pink as a survivor at the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Oct. 22.

“How I got here is kind of an interesting story,” she said about her diagnosis. Cox had a self-pay mammogram that caught the cancer earlier this year. The test caused her insurance rate to go up making it too expensive for her to afford. She went untreated for six months until she was able to be enrolled in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) under the new federal heath care reform. The problem was only a few doctors actually accepted the insurance. 

Cox was eventually referred to WellSpring Oncology, in Pinellas Park where she received treatment and ultimately eradicated the cancer.

“The doctors were so fabulous. I felt like I could talk to them about anything,” she said. “I knew I was one of the lucky ones. I wasn't going through anything compared to the people in the waiting room, but I knew we were all in good hands.”

The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Women over 50 should have mammograms once a year, said Dr. Zucel Solc of WellSpring Oncology, a local cancer treatment facility that has already seen over 150 breast cancer patients this year.

The center infuses innovative radiation therapy with influences of feng shui and alternative modalities like yoga and meditation.

“The idea is to discover breast cancer early. An early breast cancer is one that won’t give any symptoms,” Solc said, “By the time you have some local symptoms like a lump on the breast, skin changes, or tenderness, by then it may be a more of an advanced cancer.”

Solc emphasizes a proactive approach. “Go to a physician and look at your family history. Because once we discover the cancer early the chances of curing it are very good,” he said.

Now that Cox’s treatments are over, she is looking forward to pursuing her two passions: spending time in the outdoor oasis she built at her Florida home and helping others who've battled cancer. Her team for Making Strides has raised hundreds of dollars this year, thanks in part to the generosity of strangers.

“I had my pink bra in the waiting room of my primary care physician, and people just started handing me money. I had an 80-year-old woman give me five dollars and apologize for only having that much,” she said.

Cox said, cancer may not be the worst thing that's ever happened. “It's amazing some of the opportunities having cancer can open up in your life, and the generous people you meet along the way.”

For more information on WellSpring Oncology, 6600 66th St. N in Pinellas Park, call (727) 343-0600 or visit www.WellSpringOncology.org.

You can also learn more about Making Strides Against Breast Cancer by visiting www.WellSpringOncology.org/Making-Strides.html.

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