Laura and Michele’s Story

Laura and Michele have spent 14 years working with cancer patients at Dignity Health’s Dominican Hospital. The two care providers became friends when Laura’s mother received treatment there. After her mother lost the battle with breast cancer, Laura herself was diagnosed with the disease in August 2011. She was frightened of her own struggles ahead. “I was really scared at first. I had lost my mom to breast cancer and worked in the oncology unit. The first thing I told my husband was that I needed to go to Dominican’s resource center. And then I began fighting the battle.”

During her treatment, Laura and Michele would be in contact multiple times per day, never going more than a week without talking to or seeing each other. Laura especially relied on the support of her friend and co-worker when she began losing her hair. “Hair loss, that’s really hard. Wigs didn’t work for me. I just couldn’t recognize myself in wigs, it didn’t look like me. Michele helped me figure all that out.”

Laura continued to work throughout her treatment. After she started losing her own hair and continued to work, she found that it helped her patients identify with her “Look, I’m losing my hair too.” Laura arranged to have her treatments scheduled so that she didn’t have to take too much time off work because work was the place she didn’t have to think about recovery but work helped her fight. “If I scheduled my treatments on Wednesdays, I could be sick on Thursday and Friday’s but be back at work on Mondays” Laura enjoyed going to work during her treatment. “Work was where I didn’t have to think about recovery. Home was for recovery.”

Laura has now been cancer free for two years. Her advice to others fighting breast cancer is to “Keep your friends close”. “I had a lot of great friends. My friends would just sit with me. So my advice would be, don’t push your friends away. I’d also say to ask questions, don’t be afraid.”