2018 was the year my friend Anne came face-to-face with cancer.
As is often the case, her diagnosis came after a routine check-up and it came as a shock.
She lives in Northern California and I’m down SoCal way along with many of her family and oldest friends. Throughout the year, along every step of the grueling treatment process, Anne and her husband Rob have sent out detailed updates.
Towards the end of last year, Anne sent an update that cheered and moved me. It was a love letter of sorts to several of the medical professionals who have been carefully and lovingly (not too strong a word) tending to her.
I’m sharing the letter here because I’m proud to be Anne’s friend – and if you read her update, you’ll quickly understand why!
And I’m sharing her letter here, on this blog, because this blog is devoted to “the business of confidence.” I’m now at a place in my life where I’m convinced the most confident person is a grateful person. Anne has reminded me of this truth.
And the professionals who are part of her medical team remind me that confident people are so good at what they do that they make what they do look “simple” – even when it isn’t.
Confident people know that life is all about relationships – and relationships are all about the details – a look, a smile, a touch. Thinking ahead. Speaking up when we can’t. Saying nothing when silence is more powerful.
Read this – and then go write a few thank-you notes of your own!
I want to take a minute to tell you about the people whom I believed saved my life (at least up to this point). The people who we came into contact with who work at Stanford are the kindest, most compassionate people. From the doctors and nurses to the parking attendant and shop keepers. ALL of them! I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to receive treatment there.
There are 5 people who come into my mind automatically, just to give you an example.
Becky – an RN who could not have been more helpful, kind, compassionate, honest and funny. She made my original biopsy confirmation happen faster than we thought possible because she could see how desperate I was to get started.
She explained what chemo would bring with kindness, honesty and humor and made it not seem quite so bad. She was sort of the first person who we met and she has continuously gone out of her way to help make every step of this as easy as possible.
She schedules my appointments so that they fall together and we have to make fewer trips (even when I know there isn’t really a time open and she makes one open up magically).
She calls me and really sounds sad when my platelets aren’t high enough for chemo. She gets it. She goes over what everything means as many times as I need it. And she is a fellow See’s Candy Milk Chocolate California brittle lover.
Arati – My nurse practitioner who really is my everyday doctor. She’s the one I see each appointment before chemo. Her intelligence and experience are so apparent in everything she says and yet she explains it all in a way that makes sense and asks if I have any other questions even when I have already asked a million.
She does not hesitate to answer and she does not sugar coat her answers when I ask the hard (or sometimes impossible) questions.
She is truly excited for us when the news is good and she shows real empathy when it is not so good. Her eyes are filled with her feelings and it is very real. I have a trust in her that is very comforting.
Dr Dorigo – My gynecological oncologist/surgeon. My favorite people to be around have always been really smart people. (It’s one of the reasons I love Rob (her husband) so much!) Let me just say that I know one when I see one and Oliver Dorigo is one smart cookie. Exactly who you want leading your cancer team.
We don’t see him too often but he is filled with optimism and hope and kindness whenever we do.
Besides being smart he is open about options and asks us questions that include us in the plan. He patiently answers questions, is honest and up to date on new treatments and anything that may be the next thing coming. I love that. And he left me with an awesome scar!
John – My nurse from chemo #1 at Stanford’s Redwood City facility. John was the person who administered my first chemo infusion and he was so patient and informative and gave us great info, lots of details and made our first foray into chemo not scary at all.
We talked chemo but we also talked sports and family and fun stuff like that. All the nurses that followed were wonderful too but John was special. And I am so happy that he was first. His words of instruction and encouragement came back to me often during the days and weeks that followed each chemo treatment.
Finally – John – my nephew. John is a doctor at Stanford (and now Facebook) and he is the one who got us into Stanford and got us an impossibly quick appointment with Dr. Dorigo the minute he heard. If not for him, none of these people would be in my life. The life they saved.
I know he will be very embarrassed by this but I just have to say it. Not only did he do the first introductions but he pushed me to be more assertive and when I couldn’t push myself to do it, he made the calls for me. To get me on the VIP list for my surgery, to get in to see the palliative care Doctor and even to talk to me about alternative treatments as Rob and I were sitting outside the marijuana dispensary not knowing what the heck might work for my out of control nausea.
He calls and talks to me as long as I want and always has a solution for everything and he has already acted on it before I can even think about it. His love and constant positive encouragement has meant everything to me. He has saved my life as well. And I love him endlessly.
I know that this is not over. The next step is a CT scan in a few weeks to confirm the results of the chemo treatments. Then I will see the radiation oncologist to discuss radiation therapy and then back to Dr. Dorigo to put all of the next steps together and make a plan for future treatments.
This list of people who have helped make this journey easier is far from comprehensive. But I felt like giving Stanford and its people the credit they deserve was long overdue.
We head to Palm Desert tomorrow to rest, visit, swim (I hope), roast, eat and drink (I also hope!). We will also be celebrating our 29th wedding anniversary. . .