Debbie Cook, Breast Cancer Survivor

debbie-cook

I am a two-time breast cancer survivor.  Thirteen years ago, my doctor found a mass on my breast during a routine mammogram.  Fortunately it was encapsulated, allowing me to have a lumpectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation to eradicate the cancer and reduce the chances of recurrence.  In April 2008, my annual mammogram detected another mass on the same breast.  This time, however, the cancer was more aggressive and required a mastectomy and full-bore chemotherapy.  After breast reconstruction and months of physical therapy, I am mended and cancer-free.

“Asking new patients about follow-up care and whether they possess their test results leads to better continuity in their healthcare.”

Shortly after my grandson was born in 2007, I began volunteering for our local hospital’s auxiliary organization.  My initial assignment was to assist and advocate for patients in the emergency room.  As time went on, the professionals who knew my medical history began pushing me toward cancer patients who came to the hospital for treatment from complications of their illness or therapy.  I recognized a need with these patients that I could help fill:  to empower them with information and the tools to motivate them to ask for and receive the care they deserve.  I was fortunate in my treatment at the Kansas City Cancer Center because I received excellent follow-up care and services.  The patients I meet at the hospital, however, are often on their own after their initial treatment, living without guidance from a team of specialists and not knowing how to advocate on their own behalf.  Now when I meet new patients, I ask them about their follow-up care and whether they possess their test results so that they and their doctors know their baseline measurements.  All of this leads to better continuity in their health care.

In my work with the auxiliary, I also chair the Breast Cancer Awareness committee.  We host annual health fairs to raise awareness of breast cancer and provide community members with information about cancer, related physical therapy, advocacy and support services.  Armed with this information, cancer survivors know where to look for answers and what to do with regard to their treatment.  I believe it’s imperative that we are all present in our own healthcare.

In addition to my work at the hospital, I am involved with an organization that helps cancer patients with their journey through cancer.  I also staff the health fairs for them and work in the office.

Most recently, I have had the honor of sharing my story at the hospital for a group of walkers that were raising money for the Susan G. Komen Race/Walk here is Kansas City.  I was honored to be chosen.