‘My mastectomy was on April Fools’ Day, and I think I fooled everybody because had I not had the surgery, I probably wouldn’t be here today.’
“In 1991, I was 34, married with two children, ages 9 and 6, when on a routine checkup with my primary care doctor, she found a lump in my breast. Nobody in my family had a history of breast cancer. I had none of the risk factors. My husband, my strongest support—we’re married 42 years—supported me through everything. The doctors didn’t want to do a mastectomy. Thankfully, we didn’t listen.
“My husband advocated for me because 30 years ago, women didn’t have as much of a voice as we do now. They agreed to do a mastectomy and additional cancer was found in my breast. My mastectomy was on April Fools’ Day, and I think I fooled everybody because had I not had the surgery, I probably wouldn’t be here today. My journey started during the chemo sessions. I would sit there alone, petrified and nauseous. My oncologist recommended I meet with the oncology social worker; that opened my eyes. He was an emotional support; he validated my feelings. He also told me about the Adelphi Breast Cancer program. I made a phone call to them that changed my life; I joined their support group. They were caring, supportive, nurturing women. After I wanted to give back, so I volunteered at the Adelphi Breast Cancer Hotline.
If I had not advocated for myself, I wouldn’t be here.
“I decided the journey I needed to take was to become a social worker. In 2009, I became a licensed social worker. I am now a medical social worker for Northwell Health Hospice Care Network. I see patients at the end of their life. My role is to offer them emotional support and educate them about hospice and end of life. A big part of it is advanced directives, specifically health care proxy. Many people come to us without it, and that causes a lot of family struggles.
“I think without a diagnosis of breast cancer 30 years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am today. About five years ago, I had another mastectomy, which required no further treatment. As a hospice social worker, I’m very mindful to make sure my patients get the best care they’re entitled to. I’m a big advocate for all their needs. If I had not advocated for myself, I wouldn’t be here. Women diagnosed with breast cancer should do their homework and reach out for support. There’s a lot of support available.”