Breast Cancer Survivor Shares Her Story of Discovery and Gratitude
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In September 2015, I went to see my OB/GYN, Dr. Suzie Chung, for my annual checkup, and she found a tumor in my right breast. It was a sizeable lump that wasn't there the year before. My doctor immediately called Advanced Radiology and asked them to fit me in. The mammogram showed a mass that was very obvious. The radiologist was fabulous. He was very upfront but compassionate. I was absolutely shocked!
At the time, I was a very healthy 63-year-old. I'm a vegetarian, a personal trainer and a nurse and take care of my health. But I have to admit that I did not do breast self-exams monthly.
The No More Sleepless Nights program at University of Maryland St. Joseph's Breast Center is real. It truly is what it sounds like. The staff live for it. Dr. Schultz has based his whole philosophy and practice around the concept. It was 3 p.m. when I had my mammogram. I didn't feel alone. The sonographer was phenomenal. She held me, and I cried. The staff literally walked me across the hall to see Dr. Schultz. He did the biopsy right away and told me, "I have done so many of these in my career, I know what breast cancer looks like, and although we won't have the pathology results for a little while, this is breast cancer."
I was still completely in shock. Dr. Schultz and the staff said they'd all wait as long as needed until I could reach my husband so Dr. Schultz could talk to him in person. They sat me in the conference room, and the staff, the breast cancer nurse navigator, and Dr. Schultz's assistant, came in and out to check on me.
I finally needed to go out and get some fresh air, so I sat on the bench outside the front door by the garden. The staff could not have been more understanding.
The next day my husband and I came back to see Dr. Schultz who spent one and a half hours with us answering all our questions. I had two very fast growing tumors in the right breast, so a lumpectomy was out of the question. I wanted both breasts removed. I would have been too worried about a recurrence if I kept both breasts. Dr. Schultz was so phenomenal. He listened to my wishes. He was patient and wanted to be sure that I would have no regrets. I had a double mastectomy. Dr. Schultz also connected me with plastic surgeon who was part of the surgery.
Next I went through chemotherapy. I received six rounds of two different medications, going every three weeks to the infusion center. It's open, beautiful, has comfortable chairs, large windows – I wouldn't change anything about it. I got my wig at the Boutique at the Breast Center. The staff there were equally wonderful.
My medical oncologist Dr. Rima Couzi was also wonderful, patient, positive and smart. She will sit with her patients for an hour answering questions. She treats you as if you are her favorite sister.
The chemotherapy nurses were fantastic. They made every attempt to have the same nurse for me each visit, which I felt was unique. Rose, the nurse navigator, did Healing Touch for me. I suffered from extreme fatigue from the chemotherapy.
I had my breast reconstruction. I feel relieved and really glad it's over, though I still see my doctors every three and six months.
There was such tremendous support with the initial diagnosis and not having to wait due to the No More Sleepless Nights program, which is so phenomenal.
The Breast Center is extremely efficient at diagnosing breast cancer so that the diagnosis will cause the patient the least amount of anxiety as possible. The chemotherapy center staff, physicians, nurses and all the staff at the Breast Center are so caring, informative, compassionate and professional that I felt assured that I was in the best of hands.