By Miranda Atkins-Smith, Breast and GYN Cancer Pavilion Patient
In January I found a lump and the moment I saw my tumor on the ultrasound screen, I knew in my heart that it was probably malignant in nature because of the irregular shape, size and borders. As a nurse, I knew what I was looking at, but as a wife, mother and daughter, I wanted to deny that this was happening to me. But in February of 2021, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma HER2+.
I honestly did not know where to turn for treatment. However, I have a very good friend named Vivian Allen who directed me to the Breast and GYN Cancer Pavilion, a partnership between Woman’s Hospital and Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center. She could not have recommended a better place.
I saw Dr. Bowie on my first visit and had my biopsy done the same day. When I returned for my follow-up, my cancer diagnosis was confirmed. Fortunately, there have not been any other family members diagnosed with breast cancer in my family but I opted for genetic testing which later revealed that I have a genetic mutation of the ATM gene.Once I received my diagnosis, I met Dr. Ozair who advised me of my options and developed my treatment plan. My treatment plan consisted of Herceptin, Perjetta, Taxotere and Carboplatin as chemotherapy and targeted therapies. I was also advised by my team of doctors to undergo a double mastectomy which I will be having on August 2.
The chemotherapy part of that treatment plan ended earlier this month, and I was able to ring the bell surrounded by my three beautiful and amazing children- my son, 18, and my daughters, 10 and 8. Our situation is a little different. My husband would have also been there, but since he is our only source of income and insurance, he had to stay in Arkansas and work. Our youngest daughter suffered a massive brain hemorrhage at birth. She is completely dependent on others and is medically complex. She suffers from seizures and is fed via feeding tube. Due to her fragile state, I am always with her. My other two children care for their baby sister while I undergo chemo treatments.
My children mean the world to me and have been by my side through every treatment. They have been by my side through the good and bad times. They have seen me at my best and worst. They are the true heroes. Chemo and the unwanted side effects are horrible and to see that end was a blessing for all of us. I could not be more proud of them. I am truly blessed beyond all measure.
I want to add a few compliments. The staff at the Breast and GYN Cancer Pavilion, (dietary, social services, nurses, nurse navigators, volunteers, massage therapist, EVERYONE!) goes above and beyond the call of duty to care for their patients. The atmosphere is very positive and uplifting. I cannot say enough good things about this place. The nurses are very knowledgeable and compassionate. I witnessed “all hands on deck” during a medical crisis, I observed competency, calmness, compassion, caring and amazing team work. I was the patient that this was happening to. I was able to remain calm because of the positive attitudes and clinical competency of my caregivers.
I would also like to recognize the Palliative Care Nurse Navigator, Michelle. Michelle also went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure I was cared for. Her caring and compassionate demeanor allowed me to effectively communicate any needs to her which in turn, enabled her to make the best decisions for my medical needs. She also stayed by my side during my medical emergency and kept my family informed. She is the BEST! I appreciate her always patiently listening and giving me a chance to include my children in my bell ringing.