Christina Basor of Lakeport, Calif., is recovering from cancer, a journey she has made with the love and support of husband, Gary, and major assistance from Sponsoring Survivorship, a local organization which assisted with medical bills and emotional support. Photo by John Lindblom.
LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – It was 15 months ago – July 12, 2012, to be exact – when Christina Basor discovered the golf ball-sized lump on her breast.
That same month she was diagnosed at the UCSF Breast Cancer Center as having her2neu+, which to the rank and file may sound like the composition of a bomb.
To Basor and her husband, Gary, a Lakeport Police officer, the diagnosis was a bomb, shattering in its effect.
The clinical name for the kind of cancer she was found to have is human epileptic growth receptor. Its prognosis: life-threatening. Among the 110 types of cancer, it's one of the deadliest, she learned.
It was particularly difficult for Basor to accept because of her vibrant persona which she attributes to a healthy all-natural, vegetarian – and now vegan – diet.
A spritely 60-year-old who could pass for 20 years younger, she still looked fetching in a bikini during the Hawaiian vacation that she and Gary had recently returned from when she made her fateful discovery.
“I was sure that my name was on the top of the list of people who were never going to get cancer,” she said.
The morning after her life-changing discovery Basor consulted her doctor, who suggested maybe the lump was just a cyst, but she would definitely need to undergo a mammogram.
She elected to go to UCSF because, she said, of its Nobel prize-winning Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center.
“I knew from the size of the lump that I was going to need a team of people that included the best doctors in the world,” she said.
“They did the mammogram and then sent me down to get a fine needle biopsy and had me wait,” Basor recalled. “When they came back they said 'You have cancer' that 45 rpm record I had turning in my head all of a sudden speeded up to about 150. I called Gary and we cried together.”
Much has happened in the interim between then and now, almost all of it positive. Although she still has treatments every three weeks, Basor said she is 100 percent cancer-free.
As a lifelong devotee to herbs and homeopathy, she was convinced there had to be a natural treatment for her illness and read 20 books on natural healing in her search for it. Then she poured over volumes of cancer books and combed the Internet for all she could find on these subjects.
She is also dedicated to helping other women who have been recently diagnosed with having breast cancer through Sponsoring Survivorship, an 18-year-old Lake County-based nonprofit exclusively serving women who are afflicted with breast cancer.
The organization was created by Julie Kelley, who works in the medical field in Kelseyville and is a marathoner. Her organization has aided more than 60 women with breast cancer.
Basor has been focusing her energy on aiding the women who don't qualify for financial aid. Much of her time has been devoted to Sponsoring Survivorship's 18th annual Walk Run next Saturday, Oct. 5, and a spaghetti feed on Friday night, Oct. 4, both of which are fundraisers.
Her commitment to Sponsoring Survivorship stems from its abiding support for her, ranging from weekly post-surgery morale-building phone calls to medical co-payment of the medical bills confronting she and Gary. It is the only agency in the county that involves itself to that extent.
Basor implored Kelley to appoint her to its board of directors in order to pay back all it has done for her.
How important is Sponsoring Survivorship's support to her recovery?
“Oh my gosh! It was everything to us. You got somebody to talk to, somebody who cares,” she said.
“Julie called me one Saturday and asked how I was doing.” Pretty good, said Basor, but she and Gary were swimming in medical bills.
“So,” she told Kelley, “we have resigned ourselves that we're going to be paying these bills the rest of our lives. But Julie said 'We're going to pay for that.'
“I burst out bawling and had to give the phone to Gary because I couldn't talk anymore. When I heard him hang up the phone I went into his office. He's the strongest man I know, but he had tears running down his face and said, 'We can't take that money. There are other people worse off than we are.' I said we're going accept it, but we're going to pay it back and he said, 'OK, deal.'”
The medical bill issue went much deeper for the Basors. Gary's mother succumbed to pancreatic cancer. When his father died 12 years later, Gary learned he was still paying his mother's medical bills.
“I realized I was doing the same thing to my husband,” Christina Basor said.
She looks back on her decision to go to UCSF for her April 2 surgery as critical. The key to her treatment was a core biopsy immediately after her cancer was discovered, which is a “standard of care” that applies to most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I first told the surgeon to cut my breasts off,” Basor said. “But I had an aggressive type of cancer that can migrate to your brain, your bones, your liver and your spine. You can die from that, so you don't want it spreading. They told me if they cut the breasts off the cancer would still be there and would grow on my chest wall. So they don't recommend cutting the breasts off.”
But the cancer's effect varies from woman to woman and the course of treatment after a cancerous lump is detected is a matter of choice.
Basor's tumor was removed on April 2, She received a breast lift on both sides on the same day. Then she underwent a program of chemotherapy to shrink the lump on her breast.
Her followup treatments now are to ascertain that the cancer “doesn't come back and bite me.”
Basor praised the way the surgeon and plastic surgeon worked in tandem “to make me look beautiful,” she quipped.
The surgeon was nationally known Dr. Laura Esserman, director of the UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at the Mount Zion campus, and Dr. Robert Foster, chief of plastic surgery and director of the breast reconstruction service at Carol Franc Buck, was the plastic surgeon.
“I came out better than when I started,” said Basor with a laugh. “I tell people that was the frosting on my mud pie.”
For more about Sponsoring Survivorship, visit http://www.sponsoringsurvivorship.com/index.html .
Email John Lindblom at [email protected] .