Kingsley Jack, Breast Cancer Survivor
The most shocking news I ever received was my breast cancer diagnosis. Almost as shocking was the realization that I was not in control of its recurrence. The emotional journey that followed treatment was a lot tougher than I expected, and I am constantly adjusting to what I call my "new normal." It's a wholly transformed physical and emotional presence. There's no doubt about it -- breast cancer changes a person!
When I was diagnosed in 2005 with invasive ductal breast cancer, it was surreal. I didn't have pain; it was just time for a routine mammogram. My journey into the world of breast cancer treatment and facing my own mortality began.
The first step after diagnosis was meeting with the breast cancer educator at PAMF. Together, we reviewed different treatment scenarios that might be presented once all the test results were available. I also contacted Breast Cancer Connections (formerly known as the Community Breast Health Project) in Palo Alto to continue my education and connect with other women with breast cancer. Then I met with the surgeon, the oncologist and the radiation oncologist to map out a treatment plan.
I received outstanding treatment at PAMF and we put a wonderful team together. If recurrence takes place, I would use the same team. This is testimony to how much faith I have in these physicians. However, after treatment was over, I felt that there should have been a survivorship program in place. This is where I have chosen to put my passion and my interest -- in helping to form a survivorship treatment plan for cancer patients.
One of the ways to help a breast cancer patient achieve her "new normal" is to have a survivorship program introduced at the time of diagnosis. This will not only inspire confidence at the end of treatment but will also give a patient the tools she needs to rebuild her life. While I was in treatment, I was in warrior mode. You collect all your energy and support to fight the disease. Yet when my treatment ended, I was surprised to learn that my physical journey was not over and that my emotional journey had just begun. It was time to reclaim my life, but a fear of recurrence haunted me. My body was no longer protected by treatment.
Ultimately, and with time, I decided to put my energy into areas where I did have control. I drew upon a positive attitude and paid more attention to a healthy diet and exercise. I became involved with Breast Cancer Connections and joined PAMF's Patient-Focused Cancer Care Committee, where I'm helping to develop a wellness plan and identify resources to help patients explore strategies for the next phase of their lives.
Transition is hard, but I'm now able to help support the next person who is beginning her emotional journey. One of the ways to help the patient move forward is this new survivorship program, which will be introduced at the time of a woman's breast cancer diagnosis. She may feel protected during her chemotherapy and radiation, but when the treatments are over, she can feel vulnerable and afraid. The survivorship program helps her take control of the areas in her life where she does have control, such as diet, exercise and emotional support.
It has been two years since my diagnosis, and I am still amazed at how the course of one's life can change at a moment's notice. It takes you from a place of harmony to one that is surreal and frightening. Finally, I am beginning to find my equilibrium. My dark thoughts are less frequent, and my fitness is improving through diet and exercise. While my journey was terrifying and soul provoking, the silver linings were abundant. Here's to happy and healthy days ahead -- and finding peace in your "new normal."
Learn more about the Patient-Focused Cancer Care Committee.
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Kingsley Jack, breast cancer survivor and member of PAMF's Patient-Focused Cancer Care Committee