Episode 66: Michelle, a Cancer Survivor with her husband Brian
Both attorneys, guests Michelle and Brian speak with Karen about Michelle's cancer diagnosis in 2015. They recount their journey from cancer discovery to diagnosis and recovery, and how cancer has impacted their lives, both professionally and personally.
National Cancer Institute Support Groups
Intro Voices 00:04
Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me? This is You Matter, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety.
Karen Ortman 00:36
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to You Matter, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your host Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of Campus Safety Operations at the Department of Public Safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today, I welcome Michelle and Brian, husband and wife and both attorneys. Michelle is a federal prosecutor. Brian is a former county prosecutor who is currently in private practice. Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. Both Brian and Michelle are here to share their personal journey from cancer discovery to diagnosis and recovery, and how cancer has impacted their lives, both professionally and personally. Michelle and Brian, welcome to You Matter.
Thank you, Karen.
Karen Ortman 01:37
So tell me how did you and Brian meet?
While it's not the most original story we met at work. I was a law clerk to a judge where Brian was assigned as a trial team leader, and that's where he struck my fancy. Once I joined the office, we decided to date and the rest is history.
Karen Ortman 02:06
Yeah. So you both joined a prosecutor's office?
Karen Ortman 02:12
Okay. How long did you date?
I'd say it was about a year and change.
A year, that's about right.
Karen Ortman 02:21
And after that, we got married.
Karen Ortman 02:28
And then after that, you had your beautiful son.
That's right. We had about a four year break of wedded bliss, and then we decided that it was time to up the ante, and we had our only child, our son.
Karen Ortman 02:44
And who is he most like?
It's certainly will depend on who you ask.
Karen Ortman 02:50
I'm gonna ask mom, who is he the most like?
I say me? I think he has a lot of great qualities from his father, but I think personality wise I give myself the edge.
But, he does represent the best qualities that we both have. Thank God. Qualities you both have would have been a horrible child
After the big feet, because he has that. And we both have that quality, which we don't consider a good quality.
Karen Ortman 03:19
But you're both tall.
Karen Ortman 03:21
And he's tall.
He is tall.
Karen Ortman 03:23
Yeah. Let's go back to 2015 when you learned that you had cancer. Can you describe how that discovery was made?
So in preparation for our talk today, what I did is I went back, not that I needed too much reminding, because these are the kinds of events and news that sear into the folds of your brain, but just to confirm my timeline. I really remember distinctly having a sharp pain, I was in the car. When I got out of the car...
You drove back from Atlantic City.
Yeah, I was driving back from Atlantic City, I looked at my breast and I noticed a lump, and that's how it happened. It was late May 2015 when that occurred, I wrote down that approximately two weeks later, I made an appointment to see my OBGYN, and then the saga of appointments and biopsies began after that.
Karen Ortman 04:32
Let's go back. So you felt a sharp pain that was in your breast?
Karen Ortman 04:38
And had you experienced that sharp pain prior to that one occasion, or was this something that was happening frequently?
You know, it was brand new and I thought it was the seatbelt, that the seatbelt was hitting my chest in a certain way and it caused the pain. It's almost like it came out of nowhere. I hadn't noticed it before. I thought myself a very aware person, I had only had one mammogram. I was 45 when I was diagnosed, I'd only had one mammogram before that. I wasn't as fastidious as I should have been. That's how it came about. I can remember having an intense bout of itching, and I thought that was very strange. Of course, in retrospect, that may have been a signal that I was going down the road of having cell division, which is consistent with having cancer.
Karen Ortman 05:38
So you felt itching, was it all over your breasts, or was it in that area where the tumor was?
It was really right on my breast, and that turned out to be exactly where the tumor was. Now, of course, I should say, I don't consider myself lucky to have cancer, but I was lucky in so far as I had a lump which I could discern, and I could deal with. Many people have lumps in places that they don't know they're there, they can't discern them absent a mammogram. So, I count myself lucky that my body made it so that I had to take action.
Karen Ortman 06:17
So when you felt the itch and, you said, you checked your breast, and you physically saw a lump there that you had never seen before?
I had an itch, I thought it was some kind of dermatitis, some kind of skin issue. It might have been a week or two that went past, and that's when the lump came, that's when I noticed that.
Karen Ortman 06:41
So after you notice that, you scheduled a series of appointments. Tell me about the appointment, where it was confirmed that it was, in fact, breast cancer.
Well, to backtrack a second, I saw my ob gyn who also is a breast cancer survivor and she surveyed my lump, and she felt based on the way it looked and the way it felt that it wouldn't be cancer, but she encouraged me to make the next appointment. I made the next appointment with the radiologist, they do an ultrasound, can't confirm anything from an ultrasound, although, in retrospect I remember the doctors face and I remember thinking, he doesn't have a great face. Shortly thereafter that I had a consultation with a breast surgeon, and then I had my biopsy. On July 1 of 2015 I was told by the doctor doing the biopsy that he felt there was only a 20% chance that this was cancer. On July 7, I was advised, right before a court hearing, that in fact the lump was cancerous. I should say that I called every day, and ultimately my doctor did not call me back in, I felt, a timely fashion when you're waiting to hear if you have cancer. He first finally told me on the phone that it was cancer. My point in bringing this up is there's only one really real way to know, and that's getting a biopsy. So, if you want to hear the world tell you that you don't have cancer, then that's the message I could have heard, but I am not a person that lives in the sort of, it probably isn't, I really want it to be definitive. That's why I got the biopsy done as soon as possible.
Karen Ortman 08:35
And thank God you were you're your own advocate. Let's go back to the biopsy. Can you share what that felt like knowing that you were going to have this procedure? Was there an internal dialogue that you were having? Were you scared?
You know, I was scared. I was praying that I was one of the many women that have had this done, and I was praying that I would be in the group that did not get the bad news. I never stopped to say why me because why, because it’s a terrible disease and you wouldn't want anybody to have it. You're getting drilled, that's what it is, they're taking chunks of things out. I just prayed that it would turn out to be okay. I remember sitting on the couch with Brian after this occurred, it was days later, and Brian said to me, it's really not good that you haven't heard anything. I think in that moment I thought, this might not turn out good.
Karen Ortman 09:48
So let's turn to Brian. Do you recall how you felt when Michelle first shared the pain in her breast when she was driving home? What was this like for you?
I'm always in the mind, don't panic is my default. So I was like, okay, let's see what happens. When Michelle is getting these updates from preliminary tests saying, it's 20% it's 80% it's not gonna be cancer, and we were led down this path, for the preliminary examinations, that it wasn't cancer. What happened was, the doctor just went away for vacation and nobody was telling us what the result was. I thought if it was good news, somebody would've, like, pull us aside and told us, that's human nature. I'm a little nervous about the fact nobody's told us, and then I got the phone call at my desk when she got the news, and it was just like a punch in the face.
Karen Ortman 10:52
At that point, you were both working in the same office?
Karen Ortman 11:00
Again, both prosecutors. And, Michelle, if memory serves me correctly, you had some obligations in court that you were to attend to that day, here you get this news, and had to respond rather quickly. So what happened there?
Yeah, I was just about to go into a hearing, and I know that you know what kind of hearing it was, because we work together. Basically, somebody's been found not guilty by reason of insanity, so you have these periodic checks about their mental health or mental wellness. I was just about to go into the hearing, and I received the phone call. My first call was to Brian, and he rushed over and covered the hearing for me. My next call was to my aunt, and then before I had even left the courthouse, I had already called the University of Pennsylvania, Abramson Cancer Center. My personality is such that I, and we may talk about this later, the wind coming out of my sails almost happened once my entire plan was in place. I was already making phone calls to doctors before I even got in the elevator leaving the hearing. As far as Brian's response, I remember being inside the kitchen and seeing Brian outside by the grill, and I remember seeing him crying, like really crying. I remember thinking, we were all trying to hold it together in separate rooms of the house. We were trying not to have a, mourning if you will, in the same room, because I don't think any one of us could have handled that. So, that's how we dealt with it.
Karen Ortman 13:02
It sounds like you turned your fear into action.
I did turn my fear into action, because I know everybody has a different experience. I think for women, especially for breast cancer, there is a reticence to sort of face the music and realize this may end up with losing body parts. I certainly don't care about that, I never did. I just really wanted to get myself in a situation where I was getting treated as soon as possible.
Karen Ortman 13:37
Tell me about the experience of sharing this with your son.
Well, we made a decision, he was 11 at the time, that would tell him when we picked him up from camp. Brian was driving and I decided to sit in the back of the car. We picked him up and I remember telling him that I was sick, but that I was gonna do everything I could to get better. I get choked up when I think about it, because he said, well, at least you don't have cancer. It was it was very tough because I had to tell him, actually, I do have cancer. I remember he came home and he drew a pink ribbon for me and it's still on my door today. Um, he's a tough kid. We really didn't, like I said, we didn't spend a lot of time getting into the nitty gritty and I didn't spend a lot of time moping around and, you know Karen that I worked during my entire process, so tried to keep it as normal as possible and kept my anxiety and my fear, as much as I could, out of his view.
Karen Ortman 14:55
Do you recall, Brian, the experience of sharing with your son, similar to what Michelle just shared?
Oh, yeah, exactly like that. We debated, we had actually come from Philadelphia to pick him up, and it was like, do we tell him now, do we tell him later? She was gonna start chemo soon, so he's gonna figure something out as soon as your hair starts falling out. That's what we decided we're going to let him know.
Karen Ortman 15:26
Upon diagnosis, how were your treatment options explained to you? I am. You've learned that you have breast cancer that is obviously serious or significant enough to require some course of treatment. How is that explained to you by medical professionals?
So the first thing that happens when they biopsy your tumor, they are figuring out what kind of tumor you have. What kind of tumor you're have, besides that the size - it's almost like a diamond, tt's like the four C's - you have to figure out what size is it, what stages in terms of size, what grade is it? Are you a high grade, and it's moving fast, or are you a lower grade? Mine was small, but it was a high grade. It also had this personality trait, I'm getting into the weeds, it's called her 2 positive, which is not a positive. If you're her 2 positive, basically the standard of care is, at a minimum chemotherapy. I remember when we got, that was a pretty tough pill to swallow.
Crossing your fingers, it'll be lumpectomy and radiation and you're good to go.
It was not that, and I knew I would have to get chemo. I did a lot of research on my own, looking in different internet sites, different forums on the internet, so I was a pretty well educated breast cancer patient. Once I knew that I had to get chemo, the next question was, do I need a mastectomy or do I not need a mastectomy. We spoke with the surgeon, she felt that I might not need one. I always wanted one. It turned out later down the road, I found out that I was positive. I call it the Angelina Jolie gene, I was positive for the breast cancer gene, which basically meant, it was almost a certainty that at some point in my life I would get breast cancer. That was a very big surprise. Getting that test wasn't something that was pushed on me, because I don't have family history. It turns out that gene did not come from my mother, it came from my father. So, he would not have been affected the way women who have this gene are affected.
Karen Ortman 18:06
It's an interesting point to bring up too.
I mean, if I had to give advice to anyone; if there's something that you can find out that changes, what you're going to do, you should try to find it out.
Karen Ortman 18:23
Yeah sure. Did you ever find out how long the tumor had been in your breast?
You know, they really can't say. What they could say, and what I can tell you, is by the first time I saw the oncologist to the second time I saw the oncologist, it had grown. I remember saying to him, I really think it got bigger. I remember him, I don't want to say he didn't believe me, but he found that to be questionable. When he performed the examination, he said, I see what you mean. So, it does go back to being your best advocate, you're going to be the one that gets yourself the best treatment. I felt that my engagement in the process, bringing notes, bringing questions, reading up on medical studies, what was happening really helped me get, I think, the best treatment I could have gotten.
Karen Ortman 19:24
Can you describe what treatment plan you pursued? Was it chemo and radiation and surgery? Was it just chemo and surgery?
What was recommended, based on my sort of constellation, was chemo. I then had surgery, I had a mastectomy, and because I had the breast cancer gene, I also had my ovaries removed at the time that I had my breasts removed. Part of the surgery is checking something called the sentinel node. I know that you are on the text chain. Brian was texting my friends and you're on the text chain. One of the things that happened after my surgery is the surgeon said that the sentinel node was clear. That meant that it didn't get into my lymph nodes, and that fact meant that I didn't need radiation.
Karen Ortman 20:24
Oh, okay. Chemotherapy, can you describe what that feels like to have chemotherapy administered throughout your body?
Well, one thing I elected to do early on - I needed six rounds, is I got a port. The port allowed the chemo, it's basically like a straw built into my chest, so the port allowed the chemo to latch right into my body and it got delivered that way. You know, you sit there and the first shot you get is about six hours of this liquid pulsate and its poison. I mean, that's what it is, it's poison. You don't really feel anything. It's what happens as you get more chemo built up in your body, you feel the consequences of that. That's where the fatigue and the hair loss come in, which for me was very tough.
Your nails too.
My nails basically turned black and blue, my eyebrows left the building and never came back. You know, you're going to the chemo ward with other people that are getting chemo.
It's the saddest place on earth.
It's very tough to be there, and it's very tough to see the suffering that is going on around you.
Karen Ortman 21:51
So Brian, did you go to the appointments with her?
Yeah, he went with me every time, and people really volunteer to come and sit with me or to accompany me. Honestly, despite the gestures of kindness, I did not take anybody up on that. I really just wanted to be myself. I didn't want to be okay for anybody else. I didn't have to be okay for Brian. He sat there, he looked at his phone, he got me fruit salad, and we just handled it like a business.
And because I'm familiar with Philadelphia to get going to and from was pretty easy for me.
Karen Ortman 22:34
And what was this experience like for you as you sat there during these six rounds of chemotherapy going into your wife's body? How did you feel watching that?
It wasn't joyous but like anything else you get used to it after a while. It wasn't like she would sit there and suffer. She just sat there and fell asleep at some point because they gave her. What was it?
Benadryl, yes. Then she'd wake up for a while and I'd help her so she would go to the bathroom. You got used to it after a while like I said, but when...
Psychologically? I was more upset by seeing the after effects, like two or three days later, than actually seeing her hooked up. I knew she was getting what she was going to help her, so I rationalized it that way.
Karen Ortman 23:34
How did your son react to the consequences of being administered chemotherapy? Was it hard for him to look at his mom without hair?
I think it was, but he is sort of very much, like when you asked, who is the like, he's sort of like Brian in this regard, he is a he's a bit matter of factly. Maybe he'll be a doctor one day because of it. I don't know, but his view of it was, I'm sick, I'm getting treated and everything's gonna be okay. I never really disabused him of that, but there was one day where I really was having a tough day, and I was in my room and I was crying. He cried and he hugged me, and that's probably the only time during this whole thing that I remember allowing myself to be comforted by my 11-year-old and it you know. It meant a lot to me that he would feel that. I have a very good circle of friends and they pick Garan up, they took them away for a week during a pretty tough week for me.
They walked our dog.
Yeah, they just really came through, and that allowed me to do what I needed to do, and know that my son was happy and cared for and living the life of a carefree kid, which is what you would want for any kid.
Karen Ortman 25:12
But tell me about your last treatment. There's a ceremony, if you will.
There is a ceremony. I had to go through six rounds of chemo, but I also had to go every three weeks for a year to get an infusion of medicine for this bad trait, the Her2+ trait. When you're done with chemo, I got to ring the bell twice, you get to ring the bell and all the nurses come to the front. It's a celebration that you're done with that part of the journey. It's very special, and everybody who can come to the front, comes to see you ring the bell.
Karen Ortman 26:05
There was a little video snippet that I believe you must have taken Brian?
Karen Ortman 26:13
Because I remember watching it and made me very tearful in a happy way.
Karen Ortman 26:22
Gonna make me cry. Can you speak to the toll that a cancer diagnosis has on your mental health for both of you? And, what resources are available to address the mental health issues that might result out of a cancer diagnosis?
I believe, you know every person I've met who has been a cancer survivor including my wife, has some form of PTSD. When I say that, if something happens to her, like she gets a strange itch or her elbow hurts, or her back hurts, mine hurts, I say I slept funny, her back hurts., I wonder what that is? That's something I don't think it's ever gonna change. That's not unique to her, other friends I have that are cancer survivors have that same mindset.
Karen Ortman 27:27
Yeah. Completely reasonable.
Oh, absolutely. I'm not saying they're crazy, but the difference between my view of aches, and pains and her view of aches and pains are night and day.
Yeah, that's true. I would agree with that. I always thought of myself as a healthy person so to go from being what you believe to be a healthy person, to living and knowing you're going to live with a lifelong shadow. I guess is how I would describe it, as a shadow of the past, but in a lot of ways, it's also a shadow that's in front of you, one you're hoping not to meet it again, is the best way I can describe it. You really do think about everything through a different lens. Different things get amplified, aches and pains get amplified, and normal every day I'm getting older things get put through a different series of possibilities, if you will.
Karen Ortman 28:43
Has cancer changed your perspective on life?
Well, I would say, it's trite, but people do say you don't sweat the small stuff as much. I am a person that is a sweater of small things, that's just my personality and I think it's helped me in my career, and it's helped me be a detail oriented person. I think it is helped me sort of have a bit of a macro view of things. I think I've also shown people around me, I haven't been shy about sharing what I've been through if it comes up in casual conversation, and I want to think that people see me and think, she's tough, she went through it, but she's here and she's not dwelling or obviously living in in sorrow. I do I think I sweat less of the smaller stuff, but it's never lost on me that even the most mundane things like folding laundry or taking the dog for a walk are meaningful. I think about so many people who would die to just come back and have that monotony in their lives, and would love to just complain about laundry, or think that it's too cold to take your dog for a walk. I mean, death in general, obviously robs you of these things, but cancer, certainly when you're at an age that you don't expect to get it, I've become a lot more cognizant of how lucky I am to be able to spend my time doing the small things like folding the laundry.
Karen Ortman 30:42
Yeah, this question goes to both Michelle and Brian, are you different people today than you were prior to Michelle's diagnosis?
I think that my diagnosis made me realize that if I want something, I need to get it. I need to try to do what I want to do quicker and better. It really helped me sort of put that in perspective, not to stymie myself, my forward progress in life. I think it's changed me in the sense that it's time to accomplish what I want to accomplish, and not wait around, because you just don't know what time is left.
Karen Ortman 31:38
I think that you were a lot like that before, though. You were always a go getter.
I do think that's my personality, but I think when this happened, I realized I have to make it happen for myself.
Karen Ortman 31:53
It just almost, you know, created a tailwind behind me in a in a in a way I think.
Karen Ortman 32:02
Yeah. How about you, Bri?
She went for a series of tests from July to November, and I remember waiting for results all the time. Every result we got was the worst possible result.
That is true.
It's like A through C, C being the worst...we're gonna get C, I was convinced at that point. I think, where that having happened, I'm just more of a mindset, just get it done. I mean, I don't care what was happening, we just got it, we have a goal, you get it done. And our goal was to get her healthy, and we got it done.
I will say that I feel, when you go through something like this, you really do discover who you're married to, who your partner is, who your support system is, and are they going to be supportive. And, obviously through this cancer journey, I've met a lot of people who have gone through it by themselves. I've met people who have had partners that have not been supportive. So, when the rubber hit the road, Brian was there for me, he was sort of a quiet, but solid supporter of everything, of me. It just allowed me to not worry about that aspect. I didn't have time to think about it. I didn't want to think about it, but Brian came through, He was there every step of the way. He came with me to every appointment, even all the doctor's appointments. He was there with me every single time and it helped me get through it, you know.
It's something my dad taught me. I hate to say the phrase, but, just be a man. Just be quiet and get the job done.
Karen Ortman 34:01
Yeah. You don't often hear the partner’s perspective in this sort of situation where there's a very scary diagnosis, such as cancer. What could you say to other partners, not necessarily men, but just partners who are in a similar situation where their significant other has been diagnosed with a very scary illness, could be cancer could be anything? From a partner perspective, what sort of insight or or guidance can you offer to help them?
You have to be supportive, and to some extent, you can't be worrying about yourself as much as you ordinarily would. People who are somewhat self-absorbed would never make it through the situation. It'd be like, what about me? I went for nine months and what about me was never a question. So, it's just, you have to be there. That's part of the job.
Karen Ortman 35:20
Right. Is it fair to say that you were very scared?
Oh my God yeah.
Karen Ortman 35:28
And how did you resolve that? How did you cope with that?
I would cry in the shower.
Karen Ortman 35:37
You know, I think it's one of those things where, I knew that that was happening with Brian, but I just let him do what he needed to do. I did not sweep them into my arms and tell them everything was going to be okay. I didn't know that everything was going to be okay, and I took that time to sort of do what I needed to do. The only other person I really thought about, in the daily general sense, in terms of their wellbeing was my son. Brian was left to have to figure it out, and that just was going to be how it was gonna be. I couldn't possibly, with what I was going through, make sure that he was feeling okay. That just did not happen.
Karen Ortman 36:30
So let me ask you, how are you today?
I am doing well, knock on wood. I feel like I'm thriving, but I am never far from remembering. It seems like it's a long time ago, but it's not in my mind, it's not that long ago. I still talk about it a lot, I still go to a lot of medical appointments where I want to talk about it, where I do talk about it. Once you have this kind of diagnosis, I have been now in a sort of immediate circle, and further circles out. I always say call me, and I have certainly gotten phone calls from people I don't know who have asked me about my experience, who have recently been diagnosed, and I'm just there to listen and lend an ear. I ran into somebody at one of our conventions, as you know, there was the yearly convention, and she had a pink bracelet on. I didn't know who she was and I said, what's going on? I mean, I just literally passed her in the hallway and asked her that, and she told me she was scheduled for a mastectomy in three weeks. We became very good friends. I think Brian can even attest tome receiving phone calls from people that I've never met, and probably never will meet. It is, unfortunately, a sisterhood. I wasn't one for support groups, I really wasn't one for seeing a mental health professional, I felt like that would spiral me further and I would be then comparing my symptoms to their symptoms, to their treatment plan. That's the way I know that I would have been processing that information, and that's not what it's there for, it's there to help you and I know that I would be focusing on the wrong thing. So, I never availed myself of that. I do keep up on, one of the websites I go to is breastcancer.org, and it shows all the latest stuff; studies that have come out, things change all the time, and I want to know about them because I want to make informed decisions going forward. I participate in that kind of education of myself all the time. Sometimes it increases my anxiety, but as a person, if you ever asked me, Michelle, do you want to know the answer, it is always yes.
Karen Ortman 39:05
I hear you. I recall when you were having chemotherapy and lost your hair, you wore beautiful scarves, where are those scarves today?
The scarves and the wraps, I have them there in my drawer. I see them, I remember them. I fancied myself sort of like Jackie O without the hair, I had the big sunglasses, sometimes I wore my wig and sometimes I didn't. I remember once I was in my office and it was hot and I took my scarf off and a colleague came down the hall and I sort of felt bad for him. He looked very uncomfortable. How did you feel that?
Karen Ortman 39:47
How did you feel though, when you when you took your scarf off?
I was hot and I was tired, and I just was like, I need to take it off. I took one picture of myself without hair, I have it. I look at it every once in a while. You know, it's surreal, you have to throw a lot of things away. When you go through something like this you really have to get rid of a lot of baggage about your vanity and your looks, and just trying to live. It does center you in a lot of ways about some of those very superficial things.
Karen Ortman 40:32
Is there anything that you would like to share with our listeners that we haven't talked about up to this pont?
I don't know that it's things that we haven't talked about, but...
I'll tell you one thing.
Okay, you go first.
Well Karen, you know I do the lion's share of cooking in my house.
Karen Ortman 40:49
And because of this experience, our menu is not as much fun as it used to be. Red meat is only once a week, and bacon is off the table. It's just then...
Karen Ortman 41:05
No fun, right?
I have to come up with food that my son would like as a teenage boy, and have it pass, you know, the inspection.
I know that your podcast deals with victim advocacy, and certainly in the sense of a health crisis, people are victimized by, certainly the disease. Just like, I'm sure every message that a victim may give, it can't be understated enough - for the medical profession, you're a person that has this illness, they're going to see another person who has this illness after you walk out the door in 20 minutes, and then another person after that, so just like anything else in life you've got to take the reins of your own destiny, you need to make it happen for yourself. You need to hear the sort of the good voice, I remember I read an article about Jackie Collins, she knew she had a lump, but her mother died of it, and then she just decided she didn't want to hear the news, don't stick your head in the sand. If you if your boob is itching, I don't know, look into it. Don't wait for something to show up to make you do it, it might not be there. I was lucky, in my case, it was there and it called my name and it demanded attention. Listen to yourself, listen to your body, and then just be your own best advocate. Doctors are people, that is what they are, so make those connections and make sure that you are advocating on your own behalf. If I listened to all the don't worry about it, as opposed to, it might be, who knows where I would be, I might not be here.
Also with respect to Michelle's particular case, even though she found the one lump, as they prepared for surgery, they found another mass. Was it a different breast or was the same breast?
No, it was in the same.
But they found another mass. In the time it took to get treated, she was also in the process of developing another tumor. That's why you don't wait, you got to get in there and get it started.
And I will say just, not that this is a forum, I will say, people talk about nurses and how important they are. Certainly in my instance, I had a nurse hold my hand at a very low, low point during another scan, and you just remember those moments of humanity.
Karen Ortman 43:47
Wow. Well, you’ve always been an inspiration to me Michelle.
Right back at ya Karen.
Karen Ortman 43:54
And you continue to be, and Brian what a display of strength and support. I admire both of you tremendously. Thank you so much for coming to You Matter and talking to my listeners. I appreciate it.
Thanks for having us.
We really appreciate it.
Karen Ortman 44:13
So thank you once again to my guests, Michelle, and Brian and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of You Matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 or NYU's Department of Public Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. Please share, like, and subscribe to You Matter on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Tune in or Spotify.