Leading the Way

Breast cancer ties family together

“Like mother, like daughter” is a great compliment when you’re talking about a sense of humor, baking skills or prowess on the tennis court. But it’s hardly something you want to hear about breast cancer.

Still, Cheri Toney wasn’t really surprised when she found a lump in her breast last March, even after her annual mammogram showed normal results just six months earlier. A repeat mammogram and an ultrasound revealed an aggressive type of cancer called triple-negative — the same type her mother lost her life to 12 years ago.

Not only that, Cheri’s older sister, Debbie, was also diagnosed with breast cancer just two days later. Make that like mother, like daughters. Both tested negative for the breast cancer gene, by the way.

The sisters visited a cancer surgeon together, and each had double mastectomy surgery two days apart. Cheri took four weeks off her job organizing community enrichment courses at Catawba Community College in North Carolina, then returned to work while completing four rounds of chemotherapy.

“Once the surgery was over, the bills started piling in,” Cheri said. “It was a whirlwind, but ‘How am I going to afford this?’ never crossed my mind.”

Because of her mother’s experience, Cheri had enrolled in cancer insurance coverage from Colonial Life when it was offered as part of her employer’s benefits package. She also had disability and medical gap coverage from Colonial Life. Together, those plans bridged the gap between what her employer-provided health insurance covered and her significant treatment costs.

“All of my claims were paid in a very quick and timely manner,” she recalled. “My husband had a colonoscopy for recurrent polyps during this time, and even that claim was submitted, and a check was sent to me in no time.Cheri Toney and family

“I don’t know what I would have done without the Colonial Life insurance policies I had.
Without my cancer insurance, I would have been financially in debt for 15 years. It was a huge stress off me. I could focus on my health and taking care of myself.”

Two months after finishing her treatment, Cheri says she feels great. Family support helped. Not only could she compare notes with her sister, her husband and son both shaved their heads and donned bandanas in a show of solidarity when the chemo caused her to temporarily lose her hair. Her co-workers also were supportive during the ordeal, she said.

“I tell them to make sure you get your mammogram every year — and to get Colonial Life cancer insurance,” she said. “It’ll help you as much as the chemotherapy itself.”

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