Tribune News Network
AS October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Sandee Thompson, a 53-year-old single woman, who has been in Qatar for three years, has agreed to share her story about her experience as a breast cancer patient.
She is an EFL Instructor at the College of the North Atlantic, Qatar and this is her second experience with breast cancer. She received her treatment at the National Cancer Care Center and Research at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
Sandee is a two-time breast cancer survivor. What that means, as she puts it, is that she has travelled to the edge and back again, twice. At the time of her first diagnosis, she was in the middle of a huge life transition. During her second diagnosis, she was living in a foreign country and didn’t know how to navigate the medical system.
Her breast cancer, and its recurrence, was discovered through routine mammograms. Both times, the radiologist noticed a small spec on the film. She was lucky that they were spotted as both times the cancer was less than 1cm in size, which could have easily been missed because of their location. Fortunately, she was very intuitive and the wobbly smiles the radiologists gave her when they said ‘good-bye’ sent her running to a bookstore to do research. In both cases, she was on the operating table within two months of her mammogram.
In 2010, she had a lumpectomy, radiation and started on tamoxifen an anti-estrogen medication. The second surgery, last September, was a bilateral mastectomy and included new medication. She chose a bilateral mastectomy rather than a single mastectomy because she did not want any chance of the cancer returning.
She had the bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction on September 28, at Hamad General Hospital under the care of Senior Consultant, Dr Salahddin A Gehani, and his surgical team. The reconstruction process started off slowly because she experienced an infection that lasted a couple of months. However, seven months later they exchanged expanders for silicone implants.
Sandee stayed in Doha after her diagnosis because she has a large support system of friends and colleagues here. She knew she could work through whatever treatment was deemed best for her and she lives near the hospital. She said,”Staying here was the right choice for me. Catherine Marie Mckirdy, Advanced Clinical Nurse Specialist, and the nurses in Ward 8 South have all been fabulous.”
“Cancer does not have to be the big scary elephant in the room. It needs to be talked about openly, honestly and without embarrassment. This is how we will beat breast cancer. This is how we can survive and this is how we live,” Sandee stressed, adding,”My advice to other survivors and newly diagnosed people is to live their life as largely as possible, ask lots of questions and do not be afraid.”
In an attempt to build an active breast cancer support network in Doha, Sandee has started a dragon boat team for survivors and supporters. Sandee can be contacted directly for more information at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.