Cancer survivor fights on

Editor’s note:

As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Light is sharing several stories about people who have survived the disease as well as those working to improve their odds. Today we profile Ingrid Qua of Pacific Beach. She is the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s2011 Honorary Breast Cancer Survivor and a spokesperson for the 15th Annual Race for the Cure on Nov. 6 in Balboa Park.

A businesswoman, advocate, adoptive and birth mother, Ingrid Qua now has “Make A Difference” tattooed on her wrist.

When She found an abnormal lump in her breast she immediately spoke to her doctor and, like many women, became her own health advocate to push for a biopsy. The diagnosis: Stage 3 breast cancer.

Ingrid had her mastectomy two weeks later. The evening prior to surgery Ingrid held a fundraiser at The High Dive, the San Diego bar she owns with her husband. A live and silent auction benefited Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Already well loved and revered in craft-brewing circles, breweries stepped forward to support Chicks for Beer. Ballast Point and Coronado Brewing Company began collaborating on a brew “Ingrid’s 1 in 8” soon after she told them she was diagnosed, to build awareness that 1 in 8 women are have breast cancer and Green Flash Brewery created Treasure Chest in support.

Here’s what Qu had to say about her experience with breast cancer:

Q: When were you diagnosed?

A: I was diagnosed mid September of 2010.

Q: What type of treatment did you receive?

A: I went through a regiment of chemotherapy and herceptin and was extremely lucky to be one of the last people accepted to take part of a clinical trial of Avastin.

Q: Was there any one person/thing/routine that served as your rock during this time? If so, please describe.

A: I had lost my mother (Barbara Warren), a world-class triathlete, to a tragic accident two years prior. She had been in a triathlon and fell off her bicycle and broke her neck. She was paralyzed from her nose down unable to speak but fully conscious. She decided to end her life after three days knowing chances of survival where slim.

I was the one who told the doctors to turn off the machines and laid beside her as she passed away. Right before she slipped away, the impossible happened: She turned her head towards my sister and me and smiled. I knew she was going to be waiting for me in a much better place after that and seeing how she was not afraid to let go.

When I was diagnosed and realized the ultimate price of this disease was my life and after seeing my mother unafraid to let hers go, I knew what ever happened I wouldn’t be afraid. That is called faith. After that, every time I was in pain or sick unable to get out of bed due to the treatment, I would think of how my mother endured those three days in the hospital and it would give me the strength to keep on — along with that the pain and guilt of not being able to be there for my children.

Q: How did this diagnosis impact your finances? Did you have any insurance struggles?

Owning our own business we were unable to afford health insurance for many years. Luckily little over a year prior to my diagnosis we got what I call catastrophe insurance just in case something just like this would happen. We still have had an $8,000 deductible per year per person. Since I was diagnosed in September I had to pay out of pocket up until now close to $20,000.

But all I can think is thank God I was able to have the amazing care I have received from Sharp Rees Stealy. My oncologists who are on the forefront of cancer treatment, the clinical trials, my surgeon who performed my mastectomy, and the most amazing nurses who helped me during each one of my treatments. They have cared so much — they have all now become my family. That is the type of support a cancer patient needs to help them survive this crap. It is these professionals who know and have seen what you are going through that with their care and understanding can help ease your angst and strange as it sounds make it a better experience. From my understanding, the cost alone of the drugs for my chemotherapy is close to $60,000 per treatment.

Q: Did this diagnosis impact your work? If so, how?

I was lucky to own my own business and have my husband as my partner and a great staff who took up the reigns when I was unable to come-in to work. But I tried to work as much as possible since being in bed only made me feel worse.

Q: Is there anything about this experience you want people to know, that they may not know or is not commonly known?

People know they never want to hear the doctor utter the word cancer, but they do not understand the full extent of the word. First it takes your health, then everything that makes you feel like a woman — your breasts and your hair — away from you. Finally, it takes you and your family, throws it in a blender and crushes it beyond recognition then hands it back to you wrapped in a pretty little pink ribbon. But I also want people to know there is help.