Healing Breast Cancer: Who’s on Your Team?

Stephanie Freedman Breast Cancer Survivor

Stephanie Freedman

When Stephanie Freedman was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, her treatment included a bilateral mastectomy, four months of chemotherapy, and eight weeks of radiation therapy. To complement her treatment plan, she saw a naturopath, who helped her tweak her diet and prescribed supplements to ease some of the expected side effects of chemotherapy. She also had regular massages for relaxation and practiced meditation for peace of mind. “I think it’s so important, Diane,” she explained to me. “You know, doctors can get so caught up in the medical aspects of your care and, as a survivor, you try every day to be in the best shape that you possibly can to get through this. I really think the massage and the meditation and knowing that I went to a naturopath helped me gain a sense of control. Even though I felt terrible, I was in control of something.”

Being told you have cancer is like getting punched hard in the belly. It takes your breath away and at first you can’t comprehend what the doctor or anyone else is saying. When the news sinks in, you’re faced with myriad decisions that, even under normal circumstances, would make your head spin. Stephanie was fortunate to realize that in addition to treating her cancer, she needed to focus on herself, and she couldn’t do it alone. She needed a support team.

A team approach to treating breast cancer
Susan Doughty, a women’s health nurse practitioner and owner of New England WomenCenter, is a strong believer in the team approach to health care. She also says the person with the diagnosis should be “at the center and she gets to decide who meets the criteria for her team.”

Susan will be a keynote speaker at an upcoming symposium at Maine Medical Center’s Dana Center, called Healing Breast Cancer: Who’s on Your Team? The MaineHealth Learning Resource Center and the Cancer Community Center are putting on the symposium Thursday,  November 3 from 5:30 to 8:30 pm.  It costs only $5, but scholarships are available if you need one. The fee includes a light dinner.

Michele Johns, with the Cancer Community Center, says we may talk about the concept of a team approach to health care, but people often don’t realize the patient is the most important part of the team. “This shouldn’t be a burden,” says Michele. “Instead, it should provide a sense of ownership and control that is sometimes lost with a cancer diagnosis. This symposium is designed to address this central role of the patient. Susan Doughty is an inspired and inspiring speaker.”

Inspire is the word Susan uses to describe an effective team. “The job of the team is to inspire each other and help the patient work toward her goals. Inspiration is about being peaceful and centered, and providing safety and trust. It promotes healing on all levels.”

Healing versus curing
Colleen Tetzleff says the symposium purposefully uses “healing” instead of “curing” in its title. “We will never find a cure until we understand the concept of healing,” declares Colleen. A nurse practitioner who practices integrative medicine for cancer and chronic disease, she is also speaking at the symposium. “Healing is multi-dimensional and includes the mind, body, and spirit,” she continues. “A patient can be healed in the absence of a cure and can live many years with cancer in the body when she addresses the problem from a place of healing versus curing. So a woman with breast cancer who is in an unhappy relationship, has poor sleep for years, eats poorly, and is not exercising must have attention paid to all these areas of her life in order to heal herself.”

The third speaker on the symposium agenda is Dr. Tracy Weisberg, a highly respected cancer specialist at Maine Center for Cancer Medicine. Dr. Weisberg has a particular interest in treating breast cancer and conducting breast cancer research. She also happens to be Stephanie’s doctor.

In addition to the speakers, information will be available about a variety of complementary therapies including acupuncture, massage, Reikki, aromatherapy, and nutrition. Even the symposium is a team effort! MaineHealth Learning Resource Center health educator Janell Lewis explains the team’s primary goal. “We really want people experiencing breast cancer, both patients and their partners and caregivers, to understand that there is more than their traditional therapies and to be aware of the integrative therapies and the multitude of people who can be on their team — to know the options that are out there.

Healing Breast Cancer: Who’s on Your Team?
If you’d like to attend this informative symposium, just call 1-866-609-5183 or go online to register. I’ve inserted the poster below if you want more details. And please, be part of the healing breast cancer team and share the information with everyone you know who might find it useful and important!

Poster for Healing Breast Cancer: Who's on Your Team? symposium at Maine Medical Center