Exceptional Care in Uncertain Times: Lessons Caregivers Can Learn from My Cancer Care Team

Navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment is a monumental life event that is fraught with unknowns. As a breast cancer survivor, I’ve journeyed through the intricate maze of treatment options, prognosis, and uncertainty. This has been a fast and sometimes scary ride. From a double mastectomy at University of Michigan (shout out to them too!), to radiation, to hormone therapy to follow, I’ve had some tough times this year. But, I was blessed with amazing people holding my hand through it all. This journey has also been softened by the incredible radiation oncology team at Bronson Hospital. Today, I completed my last radiation treatment, closing one chapter and cautiously peeking into the next. I hope I never have to return, but the lessons they’ve imparted are too crucial not to share.

A Lesson in Empathy:

From the moment I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the oncology team at Bronson showed unparalleled empathy. In an arena often dominated by medical jargon and clinical outcomes, they brought humanity back into healthcare. Whether it was discussing recurrence risks or palliative care options for cancer patients, their patient-centered approach made all the difference. The focus on the well-being and preferences of the patients was paramount in both situations. By considering the individual needs and concerns of the patients, the healthcare professionals were able to develop personalized plans that addressed their specific circumstances and goals. Dr. Webb, my radiation oncologist, gave me the same treatment advice she said she’d give her own mother – to move forward with radiation therapy. I am still node-positive for cancer cells after the mastectomy, so radiation has been going on M-F for 8 weeks to knock them out of me.

When discussing recurrence risks, the patient-centered approach involved open and honest communication. The healthcare professionals provided clear explanations about the likelihood of recurrence, potential treatment options, and the associated risks and benefits. They encouraged the patients to ask questions and express any concerns they had, creating a supportive and collaborative environment. By actively involving the patients in their own care, the healthcare professionals empower us to make informed decisions and take an active role in managing our health.

Overall, the patient-centered approach taken by the healthcare professionals created an atmosphere of trust, support, and collaboration. The personalized care plans developed as a result of this approach took into account my individual needs, preferences, and concerns, ultimately making a significant difference in my healthcare experiences and outcomes. 

Communication is Key:

When you’re diagnosed with a specific type of cancer, the language barrier between you and your healthcare team can feel insurmountable. The team at Bronson was amazing in this aspect, making sure to break down complex terms and explaining what my treatment options were. They helped me play an active role in the decision-making process, answering questions or concerns I had about radiation therapy. They provided me with information about the treatment options available to me and explained the potential benefits and risks of radiation therapy. This allowed me to make informed decisions about my treatment and feel more confident in the choices I was making.

Additionally, they ensured that I had a clear understanding of the treatment process and what to expect before, during, and after radiation therapy. They addressed any fears or anxieties I had and were always available to provide support and guidance throughout the entire treatment journey. By involving me in the decision-making process and addressing my concerns, they created a sense of partnership and collaboration, which ultimately led to a more positive and satisfying treatment experience. 

Emotional Availability:

Life doesn’t stop when you receive a cancer diagnosis. There’s no way to guarantee how you’ll feel day-to-day, but my oncology team was always emotionally available. I was already having a tough time with post-mastectomy depression, so when I came to Bronson, they encouraged me to talk to someone, be it a family member or friend, and even recommended support groups endorsed by the American Cancer Society. Emotional support in these challenging times is invaluable, and I’m grateful for their understanding.

(NOTE: University of Michigan has a great cancer center as well that took amazing care of me during my tests, diagnosis, 2 surgeons, and an incredible care team, but I chose to forego the 140 mile round trip to have radiation there 5 days a week – have you seen fuel prices lately!?) 

A Holistic Approach:

When you hear “you have breast cancer,” the last thing you want is a one-dimensional approach to care. The team at Bronson considered not just the cancer cells but also patient preferences, lifestyle, and even the prognosis associated with the type and stage of cancer I was dealing with. They were comprehensive, considering aspects like vitamins and supplements, and whether hormone therapy could be a good option for me.

Cancer is an unforgiving foe, but with an outstanding oncology care team by your side, the battle becomes slightly less daunting. The team at Bronson Hospital has set a gold standard in cancer diagnosis and treatment, emphasizing the importance of treating the whole patient, not just the disease. For those looking for pointers on how to improve healthcare services, look no further. Their blueprint for compassionate, comprehensive care is a lesson for all caregivers.

From mammograms to stem cell transplants, from stage 1 to patients with advanced cancer, the sheer amount of information and choices can be overwhelming. But knowing the right questions to ask your doctor and being equipped with the knowledge provided by reputable organizations like the National Cancer Institute can help. You may not show any signs of recurrence, you may still carry questions or concerns, but through it all, never underestimate the power of empathetic caregiving.

Cancer Care Team Infographic
The holistic care team at Bronson Hospital Cancer Center


So, here’s to Dr. Webb and Team Bronson and to a hopeful, cancer-free future. I don’t know what I would have done without you, and while I hope to never see you again, your impact is everlasting

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