For years, the first thing you would have noticed about Erin was the hair.
As a bartender in downtown Spokane, Erin cut a swath with her often daring, always stylish hairdos. She was a regular at dept. Z, where her close friend and hairstylist Zoe Boysen kept her elegantly coiffured.
“I was just a bartender, man,” she says with a wry smile. And, in the fall of 2015, it was that simple. Erin was feeling good. She was a typical 30-something, enjoying her life. She liked her job, did some freelance hair modeling, hit the gym regularly.
Then she found a lump.
It was in her right breast, and it was no fluke. She had Stage 3 breast cancer. Turns out Erin was born with the breast cancer gene – BRCA 1 – and had always been at risk. Two weeks after her diagnosis, Erin’s life had changed completely. She quit her job, moved into her sister’s basement, and began a rigorous course of treatment at CancerCare Northwest.
“In a way, I was lucky to get cancer when I did,” Erin says. About two months before her diagnosis, Erin had signed up for insurance through Apple Health, Washington’s Medicaid marketplace. Under the Affordable Care Act’s recent Medicaid expansion, Erin was eligible for coverage.
Over the next year and a half, Erin’s body became a battleground. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy, a sentinel lymph node biopsy, a latissimus dorsi flap, an oopherectomy – and she lost her hair.
On March 9, 2017, after 5 months of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation administered 5 days a week, and months of dietary and mental health support, Erin got the call she’d been waiting for. There were no signs of cancer left in her body. She was officially in remission.
"The ACA saved my life."
Not long ago, Erin stopped in to dept. Z. After well over a year, her hair had grown long enough to be cut and styled again. It was darker than before; her once blonde locks now a rich brunette hue. This time, Erin opted for some subtle highlights, a deep purple shade to complement her blue eyes.