Posts Tagged ‘patient stories’

Growing Hope Together!

Mary BrookhartI was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 33. A cancer diagnosis always comes as a shock, but it’s particularly unexpected at that age. Because my mother had breast cancer at a young age, a new provider sent me for my base line screening mammogram and that turned out to be my first and only mammogram. I can say without a doubt that a mammogram saved my life.

I was treated here at Winship, by Dr. Toncred Styblo and Dr. David Lawson. Twenty-five years later, all three of us are still here. I came back to Winship six years ago, but not as a patient. I took a job as supervisor of business operations for the Glenn Family Breast Center at Winship, and I am one of the organizers of the Celebration of Living event coming up this Sat., June 21.

That’s why the Celebration of Living event is so near and dear to my heart. This is a chance to get together with other survivors, and discover that part of being a survivor is learning that it’s ok to let fun and humor back into your life. Learn to let the fear go and not let it rule your life. Coming to the Celebration of Living event can be a first step toward getting back out into the world, or it can be a continuation of your on-going journey. We all know that battling cancer has very dark moments, but I hope we can bring some hope and lightness into your life.

So I invite all cancer survivors, their family members and friends to come share this special day. There will be workshops for the mind, body and soul, as well as music, food and companionship. It’s free and open to all. Detailed information is available on our website.

I see more and more people surviving cancer because of new and better treatments and earlier detection. In the time since I got my screening mammogram, the technology has greatly improved. Emory and Winship are now offering state-of-the-art 3D mammograms (also called tomosynthesis) at no additional charge above the cost of standard mammograms, so that all women can benefit from this more precise screening technology. For more information about this new service and where it’s available, check out this video about 3D mammography at Emory Healthcare.

For some, the idea of living a normal lifespan with cancer as a chronic disease is a reality.

My hope is that one day, all cancer patients will enjoy a lifetime of survivorship.

Mary Brookhart,
Cancer Survivor

About Mary Brookhart

Mary Brookhart grew up in Ohio before moving to Georgia to get away from the snow. There she enjoyed a 20+ year career in advertising and design. In 2008, looking for something more rewarding, Mary returned to Winship, this time, not as a patient, but as supervisor of business operations for the Emory Glenn Family Breast Center. Besides serving as an advocate for breast cancer patients, Mary coordinates screenings for mammograms and the Emory’s Breast Cancer Seminar for the Newly Diagnosed breast cancer patient. She currently lives in rural Conyers, with her husband of 37 years, and their three horses.

Adopt a Family Helps Boost Holiday Spirit for Families of Cancer Patients

Adopt a Family Program EmoryThe list reminded me of something from a storybook I had read in first grade.

The book was called “The Littlest Angel.”  It was about a young angel whose humility and innocence led him to believe that a humble gift offered to the baby Jesus was inadequate.

His gift– a small box with a golden butterfly, a blue bird’s egg –  had been all the little angel had in Heaven to remind him of his earthly home.  And it had brought him such peace and happiness, because he had been so homesick! Yet he had been willing to part with it.

After he placed his box among the dazzling array of gifts offered to the newborn, however, his face burned with embarrassment as he cried hot tears, thinking that his gift was inadequate. As it turned out, it pleased God the most because it came from a humble, pure and true heart.

I saw a list recently that didn’t contain humble gifts a child was giving but rather humble gifts that a child hoped to receive. It evoked the same thoughts and feelings I had felt years ago when I read the list of contents of the box of the “The Littlest Angel.”

It was a list from families and kids in Winship Cancer Institute’s “Adopt A Family” holiday program. Winship’s coordinator of volunteer services, DaVida Lee Williams – an angel herself — works with Winship social services director, James Hankins, to identify patients at Winship who need help at the holidays providing their family with presents and food and some well-deserved good cheer.

Now, first off, I can’t imagine the horror of having young children and having cancer.

I can’t begin to imagine what it is like to be a child whose mother or father has cancer as the holidays approach. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a mother or father with cancer and to know I don’t have money to buy presents for them.

Too often, however, I know that “poor” and “cancer” intersect. And Winship tries to help, to connect those with an interest in helping these patients to these patients so that families of cancer patients can experience some joy at the holiday.

I looked at the book of families to see where I could possibly help. Suddenly, as I saw the requests – and I can say that most all are unbelievably humble — the theoretical became real. The names weren’t just names, they were people struggling with a horrible illness and their family members who might not have presents to open and enjoy at a time of year when so many others. And the requests were all so humble. A Bible. A blanket. A set of sheets.

I was most taken with one family of a single mother and two teenagers.

We all hear about how self-absorbed teenagers are. So I wouldn’t have been surprised had the teens dared to ask for an iPad, an iPhone or even a TV. Shoot, with a very ill mother, I might have been tempted to pull out all the stops and shoot for the moon, ask for a car, a trip to Disney. Nope. None of that.

Here’s what the kids listed:

  • “Socks.”
  • “Underwear.”
  • “Hat.”

Can you believe that in 2011 that there are young people who would ask for so little? Can you believe that there are kids who, even when their mother is ill and they might have all the reason in the world to feel cheated and bitter and angry, would show such purity of spirit that they just want their feet and heads to be warm?

These teens may not be the littlest angels on Earth, but they are certainly some of the sweetest.

The other cases I read about were similar. Maybe cancer has taught the families not to hope for too much. Maybe the families are braced for a holiday that just won’t be too bright, or maybe they have learned how to be joyous in the face of supreme sadness.

While the needs of many of the families have been addressed during the holidays, there are still families who need help year round. In our next post, we’ll discuss ways you too can help.

Author: Lynne Anderson, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

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