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Our Voices, Our Health: Matelita's Story
Wednesday, November 1st 2017
Our Voices, Our Health: Matelita's Story
Part 1: Getting Diagnosed
In this first story, Matelita Fifita reflects on her journey to better health after being diagnosed with stage three breast cancer with her daughter, Melevesi Fifita-Talavou. Matelia shares her experience having to postpone treatment because she lacked health insurance to cover costly screening services. With guidance from Pacific Islander Health Partnership (PIHP) and other local organizations, Matelita was able to get health coverage and has been cancer free for six years now.
LF: I just wake up one morning and find a lump and I just ignore for almost three to four weeks. So by the time I don’t have insurance.
MF: Yeah, we’ve never had insurance though, remember?
LF: So I did not know it serious because I’m the first one become breast cancer so I ask you, and show it to you. And you said to-- let’s go to the doctor and check.
MF: Get a mammogram I think. Yeah I think I remember because you were diagnosed in June, that you felt the lump maybe earlier that year huh? Maybe January or February you felt that lump in your breast? But we had a lot going on remember? We had to go to the wedding in Florida and we just ignored the lump until we came back around April?
LF: Yes, and it’s get bigger and I feel it’s still big-- heavy. And that’s how I show it to you-- think to show it to you because I think it’s gonna be overnight and I wake up and it’s gone, but it’s getting bigger and heavier and how I asked for you.
MF: Yeah, and I think I remember that-- well do you remember why you didn’t want to get a mammogram?
LF: Because at that time I have no insurance, so I don’t know where to go. So-- no doctor to lean on. And by the time we-- I know for sure I don’t know what to do so, but you drive, you save my life.
MF: No I remember you told me that you felt a lump and then I wasn’t sure. And I think we went online and looked for free clinics that did free mammograms. I think you came to the one here in Garden Grove remember and got a free mammogram there? And I think you came by yourself.
LF: I came by myself and the doctor check and after that check he did not say anything to be and I thought it’s okay because he did not let me know that time that I had...Anything so I go home and wait for another two..
MF: Three weeks, but did you understand?
LF: Three weeks, then received a-- no I don’t understand. And I received a letter from them of the result of that mammogram. They want to see me again. So when I come back again, the doctor and another doctor-- a lady doctor came to the room with me but they did not tell me it was serious. So they just check both of me, the doctor check on me. He sent me to what...some office the one I pay 200 dollars for each...
MF: Yeah, they referred you to a surgeon, remember? And then-- well they sent the letters, they didn’t tell you anything in the office?
LF: No, no they just sent me to the test.
MF: They just did the test?
LF: So for the breast. So I went over there and they check on me and I have to pay for one-- because I was only thinking they only check one because there’s only one, my right breast. But when I come over there they say they have to check both two breast. And it cost me 100 for each...
MF: So you had to end up paying...
LF: I end up paying 200 for-- to check both. And that’s how they recommend me to Dr. Gobran
MF: Yeah, I remember they sent a letter I think. I remember a few weeks after, after your test. And they said that you were referred to Dr. Gobran, which is a surgeon and they said that your finding was abnormal, but that’s it. That’s all the letter said. And then maybe-- do you remember how long we waited before we went to go see the...
LF: About a month, two months
MF: Yeah we waited another month or so. Do you remember why?
LF: I think I check around because we had no insure. The main thing we have no insure and that’s why no doctor wanted to take-- they want to make sure everything is cost-- I remember talking to Dr. Gobran when he saw us that day, you know, and he find out we have no insure and he said he’ll help us and I think that’s how we start our looking around for any door open for people like me who have no insure.
MF: Dr. Gobran, that surgeon, came in and he did a breast exam, a clinical breast exam on you and right when he put his hand I think on your armpit, and he felt a lump there and then he put his hand on your right breast and then he told us immediately it was cancer.
Part two will be published November 9.
Our Voices, Our Health is a series by Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) in collaboration with StoryCorps and multiple Health Justice Network partners. Beginning November 2017, we are sharing compelling stories to highlight the diversity of health care challenges and experiences within California’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.
November 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018 is the open enrollment period for Covered California, California’s health exchange marketplace. If you need assistance to enroll, renew, or use your health coverage, click here to find a Certified Enrollment Counselor near you or contact (213) 241-0262 or [email protected]!
Since 2003, the Pacific Islander Health Partnership (PIHP) has served indigenous Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities through outreach, education and engagement in community-based participatory research (CBPR), scholarships and leadership training, island community capacity building, and advocacy for health for all islanders to reduce health disparities in cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other chronic illnesses that disproportionately affect PI communities, with special programs for island seniors and youth.
This series was produced by Advancing Justice-LA, with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate word. www.storycorps.org.
Advancing Justice-LA would like to thank the following Funders for their generous support of this project: The California Wellness Foundation, The California Endowment, Covered California, DentaQuest Foundation, and Walter and Shirley Wang.
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