Today is the two-year anniversary of the loss of my precious mother. While I generally do not like to focus on this day, and instead celebrate her birthday, today is important in the real sense that I reflect on how it did not have to be this way. It is incredibly important that your aftercare is as big a priority as your treatment when it comes to cancer.
Had my mother been lucky enough to have had the right doctor when she was first diagnosed, who would have treated her with all of the knowledge and tools and compassion that her last doctor did, she would still be here. My mother’s first doctor did not follow through and give her continuing treatment after her first mastectomy. Had she taken a daily aromatase inhibitor like Tamoxifen or Arimidex, we are convinced that she would have had a better chance at survival. Approximately one year later, her cancer had metastasized to her bones. Sadly, we knew then that it was just a matter of time.
Despite this, my mother never gave up. She called it “Whack-a-Mole,” like the children’s game where you pound down a mole that keeps popping up. She did every single thing she could do to keep pounding that cancer back, for years and years. We found her a brilliant oncologist, Dr. Barbara Haley at UT Southwestern, who we are convinced gave her years more to live. I cannot emphasize enough that you must do your homework and find the absolute best doctor you can because your life indeed depends on it.
When my turn came and I was diagnosed with cancer, we were already being proactive. We knew to leave no stone unturned and found the very best doctors in my area. I even moved to Texas so that I could have my chemotherapy under Dr. Haley’s care. Unbelievably, my mom and I had chemo together. As awful as that was, I wouldn’t give up that experience for anything, because it was time with her that I will always treasure and carry in my heart.
Dr. Haley told us later that she had never met anyone who wanted to live so much, that it was her privilege to care for my mother. For the many lives my mother touched and for the people who loved her, it was our privilege to have been blessed by her wondrous spirit for life. We will do our best to make her journey and experience matter, every day, step by step. This website is the culmination of her dream to help others. I hope we can make a difference for someone else. That is what she would have wanted.
Do your homework. Find the right medical team. Trust your gut. If you feel like there’s something amiss, there probably is. You can change this. Be your own best advocate!