We Are Living HOPE: Kathy Verenes
I was diagnosed on July 9, 2009. I went for my annual gynecological and mammogram with Dr. Cindy Besson. As she was doing a breast exam she felt a small lump and thought we should do an ultrasound. Sure enough, the ultrasound revealed a small lump in my right breast. SHE told me she wanted me to see a general surgeon for a consultation. She asked if I had a preference and I told her Dr. Wayne Frei. She called Dr. Frei’s office and Alice said come over. So I left with X-ray in hand and drove to Dr. Frei’s office. It still had not hit me what was really going on. This could not be happening to me. I was a healthy 49-year-old woman who had never smoked, drank or did any recreational drugs. I was running approximately 8-10 miles per week. In fact, in April I completed my first 5K race. I was in the best health I had ever been in.
Keep in mind that I have worked in the medical field for over 20 years. I have had several abnormal mammograms so this really did not alarm me. I arrived at Aiken Surgical Associates and was brought back to talk with Dr. Frei, who said he wanted to do a needle biopsy. After the needle biopsy, I was told Dr. Frei would notify me as soon as the results came in. I walked across the hall to Aiken Neurosciences and went to work. A few days later, I received a phone call from Alice at Dr. Frei’s office. She said Dr. Frei needed to see me. So I came over and he explained that my biopsy had come back positive and that he wanted to do surgery to remove the lump. I told him I wanted to wait a couple of weeks, because the doctor I worked for would be on vacation and that way I would be out while he was out and I would not inconvenience anyone. I had my surgery on August 3, 2009. On the day of my surgery, I was scheduled for a sentinel node biopsy. I was surprisingly greeted in radiology by Carolyn Cook, the Nurse Navigator from the Cancer Care Institute. She told me that she would be by my side throughout the procedure. The doctor came in and started the procedure and all I remember was I was so glad that Carolyn was there. She physically held my hand and kept me from coming off of the table. She stayed with me and made sure I was comfortable until they came to get me for surgery.
I came in to see Dr. Frei for my post-op appointment and it was when he said the words chemo and radiation that it finally hit me that I had breast cancer. I remember walking out of his office and telling myself that I was going to be just fine and that I had to be strong for my family.
I am a woman of strong faith, and I was not going to let this get the best of me. I prayed for strength and courage to endure my treatments. The Lord blessed me beyond belief. I would get my chemo on Thursdays, I would go to work on Friday, and Saturday and Sunday were my yucky days. Monday I would work half-a-day and then go home and rest. Then Tuesday it was a normal routine: work, come home and rest, and then back at it the next day. This was my routine for 12 weeks, as I had four rounds of chemo three weeks apart. What a blessing to not ever be sick the entire time of putting all of that poison in my body. That’s not to say I didn’t have days that I felt horrible. But I got up each morning and put on my work clothes and makeup and went to work and was uplifted by the people around me.
My family and loved ones supported me through all of this and continued to pray for my health and strength. I felt God's presence in my life so strongly that at times I knew that it was God who helped me walk the halls to escort my patients to their rooms to see the doctor.
I happened to have no hair on Halloween so I let some of the girls at the office paint a pumpkin on my head. It lifted me up and my patients got a big laugh out of it as well.
I finished chemo and started radiation in November. It was then that I was introduced to Dr. Jed Howington and his nurse Colleen. They both made my radiation experience as pleasant as one could expect. I was told exactly what would happen and when, and everything proceeded like clockwork. I would schedule my radiation early in the morning and then go to work, thanks to Colleen. This lasted for six weeks. Radiation was a cakewalk compared to chemo. Once again, I felt the Lord blessing me to be able to perform my daily tasks. I finished radiation in January and was glad to get back to a normal schedule of not having to see a doctor for treatment every day.
My recovery has been exceptional and I owe that all to God. He has directed my path and has inspired me by allowing good doctors and good medicine to help me through this ordeal.
My special thanks to Dr. Cindy Besson and her staff, Dr. Wayne Frei and his nurse Alice, Dr. Jed Howington and his nurse Colleen, for helping me to have a successful and speedy recovery from breast cancer.
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