I am not an oncology nurse. I am not a patient navigator. I am a student from the cancer school of hard knocks. The entry exam starts with a diagnosis and if you are lucky, you graduate a survivor. In my case, my experience compelled me to become a patient advocate.
Like many people, advocacy often starts with a defining, life-changing moment. For me, it was a life-changing year. Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal breast cancer. I underwent a double mastectomy, an oophorectomy, and chemotherapy. I became bald, breast-less and bewildered.
From the start, I struggled with basic problems like how to dress now that my body was disfigured and scarred to coping with more complex psychosocial issues around my negative body-image and feelings of low self-worth. It was devastating.
By the time I transitioned into survivorship, I was already determined to improve the recovery experience for other women. Women coping with all forms of cancer.
I co-founded Cancer Be Glammed. A company whose mission is to prepare women for the appearance-related issues and lifestyle challenges they will likely face from surgery and treatment and to empower them to recover with dignity, positive self-esteem, and personal style.
We launched www.cancerbeglammed.com, a content-rich website featuring lifestyle and product solutions to help women have an informed, practical-yet-fashionable recovery.
Cancer Be Glammed TV (CBG-TV), our lifestyle channel on YouTube soon followed and this summer, we released our one-of-a-kind guidebook, Cancer Be Glammed:Recover in Style.
Recover in Style was created as a support tool for oncology nurses, patient navigators and oncology social workers to educate, empower and engage their patients to “take charge” of their recovery.
For patients like me—these are the people that we rely on to guide us through our personal cancer maze. Much like first responders,” they have the ability to rush in and make an unmanageable situation-manageable. I admire them greatly.
A few weeks ago, I had the honor (and opportunity) of a lifetime! AONN, The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators and Conquer, their patient magazine named me a finalist for their Hero of Hope Patient Award.
I was invited to attend their 9th annual Navigation and Survivorship conference. For 4 days, I got to immerse myself in their world and to explore how patients, nurses, navigators, and oncologists can work together to improve patient care. I even got to shake hands with the esteemed Lillian Schockney!
Thank you AONN for working tirelessly to better the lives of people fighting cancer. Thank you for recognizing efforts like mine and other patients who are determined to do the same. I did not win the award, but thanks to AONN, I headed home a winner.