I have always considered myself a normal girl with a fairly normal life. Married to a great guy. I am healthy and active with 3 kids and a precious granddaughter who, along with my husband, are the loves of my life. We have lived in Knoxville for the past 18 years and feel blessed to have found this great part of East Tennessee to work, raise our kids and find wonderful friends. I have been working at Provision for two years now as a Care Coordinator, a position that I feel very comfortable with since I am a breast cancer survivor and can easily empathize with the patients. Recently, after two years at this job I love, I was again diagnosed with breast cancer. Although I have never blogged a day in my life when presented with the opportunity to share my journey and my point of view from both sides of treatment, I thought it would be another way to help others facing cancer and radiation therapy - and for that reason, I was all in.
In 2012, while busy raising my then young teenagers, I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. My particular diagnosis required a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, and subsequent chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Relatively straightforward and at times challenging, but doable.
As a Care Coordinator, we are often the first person an individual who has been newly diagnosed with cancer or a concerned family member or friend speaks with when they call Provision CARES Proton Therapy for information. Almost always, this person is anxious, scared and uninformed about their illness. We do our very best here at Provision to provide a compassionate ear while collecting patient records and facilitating a consult date so that our radiation oncologists, clinical nursing and radiation therapy teams can address the patient’s treatment needs in a timely manner.
To hear for the second time in 6 years, “you have breast cancer” is enough to rock anyone’s world. I heard this news in the fall of 2018. Now, this mom of 3 children and one beautiful 6-year-old grandchild, was full of shock, fear, and dread of what was in my immediate future: a whole lot of treatment that would NOT BE FUN and would cause me to again, lose my hair and my energy. And then maybe eventually... my life. We knew nothing at this point only that here we were AGAIN. It was a very dark time for my family. And for me.
Once the shock wore off, the Care Coordinator part of me began to surface. I knew immediately what I had to do to combat this disease for the second time. After a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction in 2012, along with chemotherapy, I realized that radiation therapy would be in my immediate future. Recurrent breast cancer requires an arsenal of incredibly bright practitioners, along with state-of-the-art drugs and treatment. I knew right away that with left-sided breast cancer, Proton Therapy is the recommended treatment in order to spare the heart and lungs from unnecessary radiation exposure. I knew that we (Provision) had a brilliant clinical team and a caring and conscientious support staff, state of the art technology and extensively trained radiation therapists.
This was not going to be a sprint.... but more of a marathon. As a former triathlete of 30+ years, I tend to think of things in segments or parts. Chemotherapy was the swim portion of the race. I hated getting in the pool but knew I had to put the time in. Biking is fast and deliberate, and I related that to my surgery. Let the surgery be seamless and without complications (no bike wrecks). Get that cancer outta there! The last part of a triathlon is the running segment and I compare that to my upcoming radiation treatments. At this point, you are tired and simply want a cold drink and some shade. But one must push on at this point and finish strong. Just like you surround yourself with training partners you trust and who make you feel good about your efforts, the same is true for your radiation treatment team.
I knew, without a doubt, that I would be well taken care of at Provision from start to finish. With all of this in mind, I also feel that everyone’s cancer journey is different. In this series of blogs, I’m sharing a little peek into my journey which I hope will give you or a loved one faced with a cancer diagnosis some peace of mind and maybe a smile along the way.
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