Support in Unexpected Times and Places: A Survivor’s Journal Entry
As I sat in the bookstore coffee shop, enjoying a cup of Joe on National Coffee Day with my friend, we talked about the importance of early detection, recurrence stats, various types of breast cancer and our personal experiences. The heartfelt connection was mutual and the goal was evident – though we hadn’t chosen this path, we would continue walking it together and providing support for others. The salted caramel mocha was not nearly as enriching as our conversation. We talked excitedly about raising awareness, providing education, creating support groups and defining healthstyles.
We agreed that awareness of breast cancer has grown over the years with awareness month, community walks and the iconic pink ribbon. In my opinion, raising awareness of the medical advancements and technology available may be the next step. For example, three very important advancements to be familiar with include:
- 3-D Mammograms
- Genetic Testing
- Hormone Receptor Testing
Life-changing information can be gained from each of these tests. Understanding the research on each stage of breast cancer, while also understanding that every case is unique allows practitioners to make a treatment plan centered on the patient.
The breast cancer journey is personal, but connecting with others for support can make a huge difference in our overall health and wellbeing. After taking a second bite of her maple walnut scone and another sip of coffee, my friend proceeded to tell me stories of when she would go to her appointments, inevitably meeting a spouse or a family member of another patient and striking up a conversation. She said almost all of the “new ones” would ask if everyone waiting had cancer. She would answer, “Yes, either they have cancer or are like you, waiting for someone in an appointment.” She said she would add, “And just think, this is only one waiting room and a snapshot of one moment in their lives.” She is a sign language interpreter by trade and said that in that instance she could see their demeanor and body language change from apprehensive to compassionate. My interpretation from her experience was that they realized they were not alone and were comforted.
There are several support groups and other activities that provide encouragement and education for healthy lifestyles. I became involved in exercise and nutrition classes, as suggested by my primary care doctor. I also joined a women’s group where we talked about our different experiences and could just relax and relate. And, as I have said before, the medical staff was a huge support system. We met routinely and went through it together. It is obvious that they value patient relationships and treat each person with highly individualized care.
Moments of Impact
In wrapping up our time together, my friend put down her cup of coffee and emotionally shared one last experience before we left the coffee shop. Apparently, during the pre-surgery visit as she was giving her medical history, the medical assistant gave her a hug and some reassurance. The medical assistant shared that she was in her early twenties and had some serious health issues of her own. She had chosen a vocation to help others in medical crises. This medical assistant showed amazing compassion while facing her own challenges and took a leap of faith to work in healthcare. This is the spirit of care and compassion that makes a difference in our journey.