MY STORY – Sue Owenson
http://www.cancercenter.com/community/survivors/sue-owenson/ (courtesy of Cancer Treatment Centers of America)
I guess you could say I’m a poster child for having an annual mammogram. In December, 2008, a radiation oncologist noticed some suspicious spots on my mammogram. The spots were small and deep within the tissue; there was no lump that could be felt by hand. My doctor told me that the cells, classified as ductal carcinoma, had probably been developing for several years.
The recommended treatment was surgery. I had an MRI at the same facility where I’d had the mammogram and scheduled the surgery. Then I got to talking with some friends. By coincidence, a friend of mine had undergone a similar surgical procedure at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America facility near our home in Chicago just three days after my diagnosis. Her friend had undergone the same surgery at the facility where mine was scheduled to take place. The friend who’d gone to CTCA had only glowing things to say.
I decided to call CTCA. The facility in Chicago is just three blocks from my home, but I’d never considered calling after my diagnosis. The experience was positive from the start. The level of care and concern, along with the variety of extra services—such as nutrition guidance, naturopathy, and acupuncture—gave me comfort. These integrative approaches wouldn’t replace my medical care, but it was wonderful to have them available.
WORKING THROUGH TREATMENT
I was scheduled for a lumpectomy about three weeks after my diagnosis. The surgery went as planned and there was no lymph node involvement. My surgeon also sent some of the tissue for diagnostic testing to determine whether or not I was likely to benefit from chemotherapy. The test results put me at the middle of the road, and after considering the matter heavily over a weekend, I decided not to have that additional treatment. I am looking forward to completing the recommended five years of maintenance treatment with Arimidex. Thankfully, CTCA provides complimentary services like acupuncture and chiropractic work, which have helped to reduce the side effects of this drug.
My post-surgery treatment consisted of radiation every day for seven weeks. I continued to work during this time, and the level of care at CTCA enabled me to do so. I would work at my job as a school teacher and then go to CTCA in the evenings for radiation treatment. CTCA provided dinner for me, which was a real easement.
From the start of my treatment, the level of care was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. My radiologist spent an hour describing a specialized procedure called gating that he wanted to do with me. With this approach, my breathing was measured and used to make a calculation about the timing of radiation. The radiation beam was coordinated with my breathing as a way to minimize organ damage. That was an extra measure that my doctor did not have to take but wanted to because he thought it might help me.
When I experienced some burning from the radiation, my care team provided creams and coconut oil to help treat my skin, and they kept a watchful eye to make sure the burns did not get too painful.
I never felt like my doctors had authority over me. Instead, they made me feel important, that my opinion counted in my care. Every question I had was taken seriously. The care was extensive, down to my doctor giving me his cell phone number, and the warmth extended to me by the care team was, for me, part of the treatment.
Having my husband of 40 years as my caregiver helped me stay strong during my treatment. He took over everything at home—the shopping, the housework—and also provided me with emotional and spiritual support. I was heartened to see how CTCA took care of him. He could get educated on how to take care of me, and himself, and there were always people available to talk to if he needed.
BACK TO TRIATHLONS
I’ve always enjoyed exercise, and had completed two triathlons before I was diagnosed with cancer. Since my treatment, I have completed another. Two and a half years ago I had the joy of going with my older daughter and her husband to pick up their new adopted baby in Florida. I am so thankful to have the good health to care for him a couple days a week. I traveled to South Africa with my church, went on a Disney cruise with my younger daughter and her two girls, and am now looking forward to a trip to New York after my five-year Celebration of Life event with CTCA.
My grandchildren and my family as a whole have always kept me strong, and especially so during cancer treatment. Thinking about all that there is to do, all I want to do, and my faith helped get me through, and I’m thankful to feel as healthy as I did before treatment.