COTTAGE GROVE – When Lori Sias noticed a dimple in her breast in 2006, she was told this was very common among women, that there was no need to panic – but her gut told her that something was wrong.
She quickly bought health insurance in August 2006. Sias was diagnosed with third stage intraductal breast cancer the next month.
“It would have killed me,” Sias said. “It would have broken me.”
Sias went through chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and breast augmentation. She said doctors removed 26 lymph nodes, and six were positive for cancer. But this wasn’t the end of her journey.
In 2011, when she developed a cough, her then-oncologist dismissed her, adamantly saying that a cough could not be caused by breast cancer. Sias noted that this was a doctor who had not even touched her once over the last five years, strictly using blood testing for information.
She went through six months of misdiagnoses because she said her oncologist was not listening to her concerns. She was passed from doctor to doctor until she finally circled back to him.
“I went back to that oncologist, who I fired right after this, and I said, ‘It’s November. I’ve paid my deductible for the year. You have until Dec. 31 to figure out what is wrong with me,’” Sias said.
It turns out the cough actually was a sign of the cancer’s return. Sias said her doctor did a “simple CT scan” which showed a lymph node had wrapped around her bronchial nerve, forcing her to cough.
“Guess what? Breast cancer does come back as a cough,” Sias said. “If he had just done a simple test six months prior, it would have been a completely different scenario, and I wouldn’t have been suffering for six months. People just really need to listen to their bodies and advocate for themselves.”
A Springer Nature study, which was released on Jan. 4, discussed patient perspectives on their participation in a serious, self-advocacy intervention game called “Strong Together,” which was geared toward women who were newly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer or advanced gynecologic cancer.
The study states that self-advocacy skills are “particularly important among individuals with heavier disease burden, complex treatment decisions, and quality of life concerns.”
The study wrote: “Several women, especially those not diagnosed with cancer at an earlier stage, noted that they did not realize they could self-advocate. They did not know self-advocacy was acceptable or even desirable by their healthcare providers.”
“I think (Strong Together) helps you realize that there are so many ways of handling something, and it’s not that they’re wrong. It’s just some of those ways of handling something that results in a better outcome. Sometimes, you feel uncomfortable asking a question, and sometimes, it’s the best way,” a 60-year-old breast cancer patient and participant said.
Sias said, after she fired her oncologist at the end of 2011, “I went to a different oncologist who listened to me and allowed me to be a part of my own team.”
She opted to have her ovaries removed and has continued her treatment through scans and blood tests.
“We negotiate how I am feeling and how often I am willing to do these scans. I am also in tune with my body and know if something is not right,” Sias said.
Sias’ treatment also included taking Herceptin – a drug known for treating breast cancer – for about 10 years, which she is now off of, and maintaining her vitamin D levels. One of Sias’ neighbors, who is a nurse, recommended Sias reach out to a friend of hers who was the top oncology nurse at UCLA.
“I called this lady out of the blue, and she said, ‘You know what? The drug companies don’t want you to know this. The government doesn’t want you to know this. Nobody wants you to know this because they don’t make any money on it,’” Sias said. “She said, ‘Check your vitamin D level, and keep it between 80 and 100. Most doctors will say that’s too high, but that’s a therapeutic level.’”
Sias has maintained her vitamin D level since then, taking about 5,000 units each day, and about 10,000 units each day in the winter. She said there’s a special test – which many insurance companies don’t pay for – which checks her vitamin D level. Luckily, her oncologist has deemed it medically necessary for her health, meaning her insurance covers these tests.
Beyond the aforementioned treatments, Sias tries to keep herself stable with holistic practices like acupuncture, acupressure, and growing her own food, especially meat and vegetables. She said that following her diagnosis in 2006, “trying to eat ‘cleaner’ became an obsession.”
Sias is the founder of LS Farmstead, which supplies butchered meat and animal products. She said her products do not remotely compare in quality or taste to local grocery stores because hers are “extremely cleaner meat that you can taste.”
“We supply wholesome pork cuts and products along with fresh, free-range eggs, chickens, and excess fruits and veggies to our community through farm sales and the local farmers market,” Sias said. “Our stock is well taken care of in a clean, open environment, using the highest quality Oregon grains and hay forage available. We follow organic type non-chemical practices.”
LS Farmstead also breeds and sells Australian Shepherd puppies, all of which have been fully health tested.
“Our puppies are scattered through several states, and some are in training or are emotional companions and service dogs.”
Tassia Sahsbender, manager of the South Valley Farmers Market, said it’s a pleasure to have Sias as a vendor at the market and emphasized “how much it means to us to be able to support her business and to provide her with another way to reach more customers.”
Sahsbender said she had the chance to bring her family to LS Farmstead.
“We got to play with Lori’s puppies, which are incredibly sweet. She also has some goats and chickens, and so we got to pet them,” Sahsbender said. “She’s really dedicated to her livestock, and she has a really effective system for managing them. I was so impressed with how clean and beautiful her property was.
“I was so impressed with her systems and her fencing and what a beautiful operation she has. She has the cleanest, most healthy-looking animals, and she gives them a great upbringing.”
Despite Sias’ health struggles, she has worked hard to maintain a respectable farm in Cottage Grove, bringing fresh products to markets and healthy puppies to their forever homes. More information about LS Farmstead and all it provides can be found on its website: lsfarmstead.com.