Having been a NICU nurse at Woman’s Hospital for 16 years, I am well versed in caring for extremely sick patients and helping families cope with the stress of unfamiliar and unexpected situations. I never thought I would have to deal with my own unfamiliar and unexpected situation, but on October 16, 2015, I heard the words no one ever wants to hear. My doctor sat down with me and said, “DeAnna, you have breast cancer.” My body became flooded with so many thoughts and fears. The uncertainty of my circumstance, my future, and my condition was overwhelming. The shock of the diagnosis soon passed after talking with my doctor, family, friends and other breast cancer survivors.
The type of cancer I had was considered very aggressive; therefore, I decided to undergo a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction surgery for the best possible results. Following surgery, I began chemotherapy. This process could only be explained as a roller coaster, having days where I felt good and days when I felt terrible. The key to surviving chemo is to remain positive! Luckily for me, I had my people around me, helping me to stay focused and reminding me that the gloom would end and the sun will shine again.
As if the physical toll of chemotherapy wasn’t enough, it was during this time that I had to come to terms with one of my biggest fears – losing my hair. The whole idea of losing my hair made me feel extremely insecure and less than a woman. The anxiety and fear of losing my hair suddenly became a greater fear than surgery and treatment. Fortunately, my family and friends rallied around me, providing me additional support and helping me find beauty in my wigs and precious hats. Together, we made light of the situation and worked together to help me find my self-confidence.
Throughout my entire journey, my family, friends and coworkers made the process more bearable by showering me with love, prayers and support each and every day. They did this through simple acts of kindness like cooking a meal, bringing me to and from appointments and treatments, helping out here and there as they could, or just stopping by to visit and see how I was feeling.
I am eternally grateful for the compassionate staff at Woman’s for providing me with the best possible care throughout my cancer journey. I cannot say how incredible it was to have caregivers that walked me through the process, supported me through it all, and celebrated every milestone along the way. Their compassion is a step above the rest!
They say things happen for a reason, and I could not agree more. While in remission, I was blessed with the opportunity to transfer from the NICU to Advanced Imaging at Woman’s. Though it was scary to make a career change after so many years, it was something I felt very passionate about. Having gone through my cancer journey, it makes me extremely proud and means so much more to me to be able to work with and support others who are beginning or going through their own breast cancer journey.
I’m DeAnna. I’m a wife, a mother, a nurse, and I am the sisterhood!