My breast cancer journey began two years ago. Looking back on my diagnosis, my first thought was: Why me?
How could this be, I wondered, when I had been feeling great and on top of the world?
I have always been faithful about getting annual mammograms and performing self-examinations. I even scheduled appointments for my childhood friend of six decades. First, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, then on March 15, 2006 - the Ides of March - I learned I had it, too.
My friend and I thought this was some kind of cruel joke. We had the same surgeon at Faulkner Hospital, Margaret Lawler, MD, and the same oncologist, Daniel Morganstern, MD.
During my treatment, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) opened a satellite center at Faulkner, and I became a Dana-Farber patient.
During my 10 months of chemotherapy and radiation, I learned a lot about the kindness of others.
My infusion nurse, Meheret Gebreneskel, RN, prepared me every step of the way, which resulted in our strong bond. She made each of my trips to Faulkner from Cape Cod, where I live, much easier. And Dr. Morganstern never avoided answering my questions or appeasing my curiosity.
I will always be grateful for the care and compassion of the staff, which made my experience as pleasant as possible. I was one of the first patients to receive care in the DF/BWCC satellite facility. Now, when I return there, it's like the TV show Cheers, "Where everybody knows your name."
My supportive husband attended all my infusion treatments. He found time to distract me from my illness by taking me on trips when I felt well, and coming up with surprises to keep me optimistic. He took me on an exciting whale watch out of Provincetown, and an overnight trip to New Hampshire.
There was not a day when I didn't receive a card or phone call from family and friends. Even friends of friends who themselves had been touched by breast cancer sent me books on coping with the disease, or called me to say that this, too, shall pass.
I thought shaving my head was going to be traumatic, but everyone was amazed at how wonderful I looked in my new wig, featuring brown locks highlighted with a dash of auburn. These days, I am "au natural." My hair grew back salt-and-pepper gray with a little curl, and that is my new fashion statement.
Today, I am feeling well and happy, and have resumed my oil painting. I just won second prize in a juried art exhibit at the Cape Cod Art Association. The Ides of March are long behind me.
I am also a new member of the Patient Family Advisory Council, hoping to assist others going through cancer treatment. It is rewarding to go on rounds with Sue Frost, the patient relations representative at the Faulkner hospital satellite, and listen to patients, who share my gratitude at being part of the Dana-Farber family.
My goal is to help strengthen communication and collaboration among patients, family, caregivers, and staff at the Faulkner Hospital satellite location.
Anyone interested in more information should visit the Patient Family Advisory Council pages on dana-farber.org, call them at (617) 632-4319, or contact Sue Frost at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You, too, can make a difference.
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