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Survivorship

Grateful

Survivor Lisa A. D’Ottavio looks back with gratitude to her family and friends who offered support during her battle with breast cancer.
December 2018 Vol 4 No 5
Lisa A. D'Ottavio
Patient Advocate
Biddeford, ME
Breast cancer survivor

My family was amazing during my entire diagnosis, and I was also extremely grateful for one of my good friends. She was taking notes at those first doctors’ appointments. I felt like I was in a fog whenever I visited a new doctor—I got 3 “second” opinions and saw specialists, including surgeons, oncologists, and gynecologists.

My friend had the unique perspective of being outside my family unit, and she diligently wrote down all the options presented to me—the drug treatments and the possible outcomes—everything the doctors told us.

It was so advantageous for me to read her notes after my appointments. I could barely remember anything, and yet she had chronicled it all for me in a single notebook.

Looking Back

It has been amazingly helpful to look back at those notes—even today. I had probably read them a dozen times after she first wrote them, and now, when I re-read them more than 12 years later, I am amazed at the things that I had missed, or rather had chosen to ignore, possibly for my own self-preservation.

For years, I overlooked how quickly my cancer had spread into my lymph nodes, that another tumor was present in the same breast, and how deadly my cancer was, but I knew I would survive it. I didn’t give my brain or heart another choice. I always had my team with me.

I was also grateful for all the cards, e-mails, phone calls, visits, and support I received during this challenging time.

Basketball, Chemo, and Prayer

I will never forget going to one of my daughter’s basketball games on my birthday in December, during my chemo treatments. Each girl on the team made me a card on pink paper and ran up the bleachers to hand-deliver it to me. I was so touched by that gesture—I still have those cards and they bring me back to that day every time I read them.

On other occasions, friends would literally show up at my doorstep with a meal or the demand, “I’m driving you to your radiation appointment today,” refusing a “no, thank you” from me.

I was mentioned on the prayer list in the bulletin of our church for at least a year. If you believe in prayer as I do, you know its power firsthand, especially when you have your community and loved ones praying for your health.

Asking for Help

I have never had trouble asking for help or putting the truth and my heart on my sleeve, but I realize that everyone is not comfortable doing that. However, if you get sick and you can put your pride or embarrassment aside (although you have nothing to be embarrassed about), I can guarantee you that the love and caring you receive will lift you above any of that.

Open your heart, and let people help. Someday, you will be called upon to pay it forward—and you will be ready.

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