Cancer is a big problem.
But it was the little things that really helped me through my treatment.
A 41-year-old woman from the Philippines spoke with us about her journey one year after her initial diagnosis. She shared with us how the support from the team at Mediclinic City Hospital’s Breast Centre, and her breast cancer nurse in particular, played a very important role in getting her through.
I didn’t even know that the Breast Centre existed - but who really knows these things before they’re diagnosed. I had only gone there because of a routine medical exam for work that had flagged something suspicious on the scans, and Mediclinic City Hospital is where my company sent me.
I was looking for a breast surgeon, what I found was so much more. A one-stop-shop: doctors, nurses, specialists and surgeons, this whole team to help me fight this cancer, in one place. The other thing I found, beyond the expertise and medical treatments, was a real feeling of support.
And that started from the very beginning, from when first I received my diagnosis.
I’ve only really cried twice during this process.
The first time was when I got my diagnosis.
I will never forget that moment, being in that room with my doctor and breast cancer nurse, when they had just told me I had cancer.
There’s no way that doesn’t shake you - it was the scariest thing I had ever heard.
But almost immediately, right after that moment, the support kicked in.
We stepped out of that room and my breast cancer nurse invited me to her office. She handed me a box of tissues and let me talk. She asked me how I was feeling, what were my concerns - she helped me process what I had just heard.
That was the second time I cried.
Treatment and care
Sometimes you just need things to be explained to you as a normal person.
As a cancer patient, you’re trying to understand things as a layman, not someone with any kind of medical background. But throughout this past year, I have always been able to turn to my nurse.
From the get-go, she invited me to drop in on her, sit with her for a minute, listening and answering questions I didn’t want to bother the doctor with. Her door always felt open to me.
She helped me make informed decisions.
From what I was going to do about my hair during chemo - answering all my questions about whether I would lose it all, what to expect and what my options were - to assisting me in making bigger decisions about my surgery.
She gave me the chance to defer some decisions too: when the question of prosthetics came up post-surgery and I was feeling overwhelmed and not ready to make a call, she told me that was okay, that I didn’t have to decide right away, and that I was still healing.
Sometimes your concerns are more practical than medical. When you start chemo, as I did before my surgery, you hear a lot about all the potential side effects but you don’t know what to do with them.
But Elisabeth, being a specialist breast cancer nurse, had all the best “life hacks”. She had helpful suggestions and expert advice for me all along the way.
You know that chemo affects the hair, but you forget about the nails. When she explained the changes that could happen to my finger nails and toe nails, she suggested painting them a dark colour. That way I could conceal any discolouration or changes if they were to occur.
It’s nice to have someone think about that for you. Not just the treatment but how to live with cancer.
At this hospital, they treat you as a person, not just a patient. Support and encouragement was as much a part of my treatment as chemotherapy and surgery.
Whenever I saw my nurse she’d ask me how I was feeling and offer me some form of encouragement.
“You’re looking well”.
“You look good”.
Her saying things like that may seem small, but they meant the world to me at the time.
But it wasn’t just her who did it, everyone who’s had anything to do with my treatment plan has made me feel like there was a team behind me.