March 5, 2015 was the date of my stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis. I didn’t choose cancer, but there are many people that devote their lives to the patients. They choose to be immersed in it, and this is for them.

Dear Cancer Center Staff:

You may be a receptionist, a volunteer, a cleaner, a nurse, a doctor, a lab tech, a radiation tech, scheduler, or social worker. You may be someone I don’t see, or forgot to mention, but this is for you. You are my village.

It was five years ago today that I received that call. A call from someone I didn’t know who told me I had breast cancer. I still remember exactly where I stood during that conversation, as my life turned upside down. After setting up appointments, my thoughts turned to my children and how I would tell them, how I would explain it to them. 

The following week I walked into the cancer center for the first time. The appointment was a blur, with so much fear and unknowns, even once I left. The place that was then so big and scary, is now so familiar and welcoming. You, who work there, you have become my village.

After all the tests and decisions about the plan of care, then surgery, I became a member of the village. This community that could not exist without each other.

I remember receptionists asking how I was feeling, as I checked in the day after chemo. 

I remember conversations with volunteers, various staff and nurses before and during treatments. Know that I loved learning about you, because in doing so, you allowed normalcy in a situation that was anything but normal. 

I remember you listening with compassion. You allowed me to vent, but also offered me ideas or solutions too. I remember the concern in your eyes.

I remember the gentle care. I know you didn’t want to hurt me with the needle sticks, or when accessing my port. I know you felt sorry when it did hurt. 

I remember that my scars did not phase you, as I lay down for radiation. 

I wonder if you knew I was shaking that day I came back for a check up, months after after the end of active treatment. As much as I cared about you, I didn’t want to be a member of the village anymore.

I remember so, so much more, but some memories are starting to fade, and that’s good. 

Now, when I visit each month, I still get the greetings, the gentleness and the care, but I am more of a visitor than I am a member. Eventually my visits will become less frequent, but today, the day my life turned upside down I wanted to visit you and tell you ‘Thank you.’ While patients don’t choose to become members, you do. You show up and care for people that very much need you. You choose to be here, and in doing so, you make a difference. 

Thank you, with all my heart.

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