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Back to School - Health 101

So where did I leave off... oh yes, a year ago, August 9th we returned from the house we purchased in Austin, to begin educating myself with all things breast cancer.

Despite the fact that I have been working in healthcare for the past 25 years, I really had no idea what it meant to have "breast cancer". You hear about so many women who have faced it and beat it. You see the pink ribbons posted, pink license plates, pink wrist bands, the Susan Komen Walk advertised, October Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Hollywood Stars who survived breast cancer like Sheryl Crow, Christina Applegate & Melissa Ethridge, but I truly didn't have the remotest idea about the complexities of this disease. Call me "totally clueless".

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Lucky for me, living in Los Angeles, I had many choices for great cancer treatment - UCLA, City of Hope, USC, Cedars Sinai and others. That coupled with the fact that over the years, working in healthcare, I have been blessed with the opportunity to establish a deep network and close relationships with health care executives and providers across the country, and as a result, I had access to the top physicians in the area. I also had no qualms whatsoever, to cash in on those relationships and ask for a few "favors". What good is it to have "connections" and not use them, right?

I chose to go with Hoag - Keck Medicine of USC program. It was their team of physicians and staff that introduced me to "breast cancer" and walked me through, in great detail, what my personal "cancer' was and the treatment options I had. From the moment I walked into the office, I felt a sense of comfort. Each doctor or nurse I encountered treated me with respect, spent all the time I needed on cancer education, answered all my questions, and considered my opinions & personal situation.

Despite the time and attention each physician took, it still didn't change how much I needed to learn... and QUICK! There were so many physicians on the treatment team... surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, plastic surgeons, infusions specialists, genetic counselors and nurse navigators. I went to what felt like a million doctor appointments and each had their opinion about the treatment options - lumpectomy, mastectomy, double mastectomy, interoperative radiation therapy, external whole beam radiation for 1 week, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, oncoplasty, chemotherapy, therapy - AAAHHHH!

One of the things I did learn was that each individual's cancer is unique and the treatment plan would be specifically created from the post surgical test results. There were so many different variables and no one, was certain, at this point, what the exact outcome would be. They did confirm one thing - expect the plan to potentially change. They could only definitively determine the type of cancer - where, when and what stage I was, when the surgery & pathology results were complete. From the initial diagnostic tests, it all looked like it was early stage so I was hanging on to the hope that this would be the case.

If you know me well, too many variables, puts me over the edge. Not being in control and not knowing what my outcome would be post surgery, was not an environment that I was used to being in. This was completely out of my comfort zone. I needed to make a decision and quick, so that I could get to the next step. Ok - here goes.... I decided to do a lumpectomy with IORT (interoperative radiation therapy). Based on the initial results of my biopsy and MRI's, it looked like I was a candidate for this new technique which allows me to reduce radiation therapy from 7 weeks to 1 day. I prayed and crossed my fingers that this would be the easiest way out.