In May 2007, Deb Cassie felt a lump in her breast during a routine self checkup before her mammogram in July. Her primary care doctor told her it was normal and not to pursue it. After feeling the lump again in October, Deb was referred to a breast surgeon and an ultrasound determined she had stage 3 breast cancer that was HER 2 positive.
Deb was shocked. As the mother of two grown children, she had been working as a pharmacy technician, eating well and exercising regularly. She had always been worried about heart disease because of her family history but felt blindsided by a cancer diagnosis.
She immediately underwent a complete mastectomy, had 17 lymph nodes removed and underwent 33 radiation treatments. While finishing her treatment, Deb discovered the Cancer Support Community of Lehigh Valley through a calendar in her doctor’s office. She was immediately excited to hear about the support they offered, including resources for children and caregivers.
Deb began participating in support groups, exercise classes, cooking sessions and education workshops. “To talk to people who had the same thing you did; it was an amazing thing. It’s incredible the amount of information I’ve learned through their workshops. I crave information and I wanted to learn as much as I could about my cancer and what’s available to me, especially if something comes back.”
Throughout the process, Deb was happy with her doctors and medical care, but wished that more psychosocial support information had been offered to her from the beginning. “Only my clinical and drug treatment was addressed,” said Deb. “My doctors were wonderful, but they never addressed anything psychological. They really need to have a navigator that follows up with patients even after they complete treatment. I didn’t have anyone follow up with me about any emotional or psychological issues. The doctors a lot of times don’t even know if you’re having an issue. I’m really lucky to have the Cancer Support Community to see me through that”.
Today, Deb is busy helping her daughter buy a house and looking forward to having grandchildren. After her husband’s retirement in 2 years, Deb says “we’re excited to travel and enjoy life!”
Reflecting on her cancer experience, Deb says “I take things in more and I really look at them. I notice the blue sky now, I never noticed that before. Everything means more to me now—my family, the earth, and my friends. I’m working on my bucket list! I’m working on putting my new routine together and creating my new normal.”
Recently, Deb became involved with The Breast Cancer M.A.P. (Mind Affects the Physical) Project, where she joined a registry of breast cancer survivors online. “Anyway to get the word out there to women that we need to do more research, we need to have more women available to share their stories to increase knowledge of the breast cancer experience.”
The M.A.P. Project is a movement to identify and address the emotional and social needs that accompany a breast cancer diagnosis. By joining this first-of-its-kind registry and sharing their breast cancer experience, women have a unique opportunity to help researchers better understand the full impact of breast cancer and ultimately discover innovative ways to improve the cancer journey for millions. Initiated by the Cancer Support Community’s Cancer Survivorship Research and Training Institute, the M.A.P. Project is made possible through a generous grant from The Breast Cancer Fund of National Philanthropic Trust. For more information or to join the movement, visit www.breastcancerregistry.org
The Cancer Support Community affiliate in Greater Lehigh Valley offers support and networking groups, education workshops, health and lifestyle classes and social activities. To learn more about their free programs, visit www.cancersupportglv.org/
To find a Cancer Support Community affiliate near you, visit www.cancersupportcommunity.org/FindaCommunity