People in My Corner

WhereWeGoNow is a community of people who have survived the cancer experience and lived to find a new life of resilience, focus and courage. As we continue to bond with other survivors, we will always be grateful for that community of family, friends and supporters that was there during the bad days.

I am fortunate to have met many amazing people in my life, some who began the cancer journey with me, and others who came into my life only because of that journey. I want to thank each of them publicly for the special role they play in my life and to invite them to use WhereWeGoNow as a platform to express their own thoughts about cancer and life thereafter.

Because there is no way to assign priority among such wonderful people, I’ll list them in order of appearance in the movie of my life. For those who have chosen to write a blog or other posting for WhereWeGoNow, just click on their name to read what they have to say:

Virginia, Robert, Michael, Tom, Greg, Christine, Janine, Glenn and Amy – my mother and my eight (yes, eight) brothers and sisters. These are the people (joined by the “out-laws”) who stand in that magical circle around me. Thank you for the phone calls, hospital visits, flowers, and overall solidarity. I am especially grateful to my mother, who helped take care of me during my recuperation and was always there to do what mothers do. Special mention to my brother Robert, who called me every other night for weeks just to check up on me, and my sister Amy, who, with my mother, insisted on keeping my husband company during my surgery and always made it her mission to make me laugh. You will never know what you did for my soul, but I need to try to tell you.

Linda– my friend since grammar school. If you ever need to know how to support someone with cancer, just follow her lead. First, you ask what the person needs and wants from you – and then you do it. Her availability whenever I needed to talk (or complain, I’m afraid) never failed. She was just there for me to lean on whenever I needed her, no matter how incredibly busy she was. I am eternally grateful your parents and mine decided all those years ago to settle down in the tiny village of Middlebush.

Liz – Another friend of decades (don’t ask how many.) The love and support you always give me makes me positively glow after our lunches.

Michael– my husband of 25 years. What can I say? It’s not easy to live with a scared, heartsick woman fighting cancer. You held up and hunkered down and you tried to understand. I can’t imagine what you were going through yourself, and you tried your best not to show me. You went to every test and doctor’s appointment I asked you to go to, no matter the toll on your practice. And all you cared about the whole time was that I was not going to die. I’m so grateful I had you beside me throughout the fight, and throughout my life.

Florence– my mother-in-law. This is the other mother who took care of me while I was recuperating from surgery. She drove me to doctor visits, took care of my kids and did whatever I needed to keep me and my household running. Thank you again for being there for our family.

Emma and Mike– my children. Just 15 and 13 when I was diagnosed, they showed amazing courage and strength. It’s an unspeakable thing to reveal your mortality to your children; it changes everything in their world. But somehow they dealt with that and my inability to be completely there for them. I know it wasn’t easy. You are the reason I fought to survive and you will always impress me. I love you.

Dr. Diana Addis – my breast surgeon. This is the doctor who had to deliver the bad news, which she did with sensitivity and grace. Thank you for listening when I told you I still didn’t get why I was losing a breast to something I couldn’t see and backing up to explain it again. You were there too for my husband right before I went in to surgery and that meant the world to me.

Dr. Peter Hyans – my plastic surgeon. I know I didn’t appreciate it while I was going through it, but you really did manage to put Humpty Dumpty back together again – and beautifully so. Thank you for treating me with kindness and sensitivity.

Sarah Mandel, RN, LSW, CBPN-C – my breast nurse navigator. On April 16th, 2009, Sarah walked into my hospital room and my emotional recuperation began. Before my surgery, I thought I’d do four days in the hospital and then be sent home to face all of the emotional damage on my own. I had no idea there was a dedicated, compassionate advocate out there who would support me in whatever way I needed. I still reach out to her today and she still makes me feel like I’m her only priority. You and the other nurses who took care of me post-surgically are the main reason I feel compelled to give back today. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you do.

Sara Duphiney, LSW – my oncology social worker. I spent a lot of time in a small room with this woman. And every hour brought me closer to finding myself through the muck of all that cancer stirred up in my life. Your guidance, listening, support and deep concern for my welfare were my life lines through the whole experience. I don’t know how I could have possibly survived it all without you and I will be forever grateful.

Dr. Bonni Guerin – my medical oncologist. Your straight talk and candor are refreshing and very much appreciated. When we first met, you gave me your cell phone number in case I wanted to talk to you later because my head was “buzzing.” I called it only once months later, when my first post-mastectomy mammogram came back questionable. It is comforting to know that you care about both my physical and emotional welfare.

Lockey Maisonneuve, Certified Cancer Exercise Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, NASM, founder MovingOn – my personal trainer, breast cancer rehabilitative exercises. Every woman who experiences your MovingOn program comes out richer, both physically and emotionally. As a fellow breast cancer survivor, you inspire us to regain control over our bodies and thus our lives. Thank you for your enthusiasm and compassion. Thank you for becoming my friend.

Alyssa Millman, NCTMB, Supportive Oncology & Breast Surgery Massage Specialist – I found Alyssa when I couldn’t take the pain from my TRAM flap anymore. Alyssa dedicated herself to figuring out my insides and making them feel better. She researched my condition, gave me all the time she could and educated me. But most of all, she touched me. She worked on my body with the care, sensitivity and artistry of a healer. It took several weeks, but she kept at it and, when I began to feel better, we both rejoiced.