Carie Capossela — My breast cancer treatment team focused on my needs

Carie CaposselaCarie Capossela: “I was so lucky to end up with the specialists in my treatment team.”

Carie Capossela was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33. Determined to see her young son and daughter grow up, she put her care in the hands of a clinical team at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

I had just gone for my one-year checkup after giving birth to my daughter. My doctor didn’t find anything abnormal, but a week later I was shaving and felt a lump in my right breast under my armpit.

When I called my OB/GYN, she told me to go have a mammogram — my first. They told me it was a solid mass and that I needed to go see a breast surgeon.

I thought of Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center right away because of its reputation. I had grown up hearing about this place where cancer was the focus, and I knew it was where I wanted to go. After all, people came here from all over the world; I was lucky enough to live close by. How could I go anywhere else?

I didn’t want a general surgeon who sometimes did breast surgery; I wanted somebody who always did breast surgery. I found my surgical oncologist in Dr. Dirk Iglehart, who performed a biopsy.

I remember the care and compassion with which he told me the devastating news that I had breast cancer. The words he used made a huge difference in the way I was able to handle my diagnosis and move forward with a positive attitude.

Dr. Iglehart told me I needed to see a medical oncologist, and I met with his colleague Dr. Eric Winer. He was wonderful. I trusted him from the start. I knew he had my best interests at heart.

One of the first things Dr. Winer asked me was “Where are you with your family?” When I told him I was considering more children he said it was not out of the question, even though chemotherapy and radiation can often impact fertility.

I know many doctors quickly rule this out as an option for a young woman, but Dr. Winer kept the door open for me, balancing my risks with my quality of life and allowing me to feel I had a choice — which is so important when you feel completely out of control.

The chemotherapy infusion nurses were terrific. Mine explained every part of the process to me, which helped calm my nerves. In a frightening situation, it was very comforting to see the same person every three weeks; it was something I could hold on to.

I started radiation right away after chemo. I loved Dr. Jay Harris, my radiation oncologist. Somebody described him to me as being like a big teddy bear, and I could see why. Once again I was in the hands of an amazing doctor who had incredible bedside manner.

From the moment I arrived at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, I felt a strong sense of comfort. I immediately became a part of the Dana-Farber family.

I had a team of doctors, all specializing in breast cancer, who worked together to come up with a treatment plan specific to my cancer and my life. I very much believe in the value of experts, and here I had an A-Team of experts.

Although I am usually a very “in control” person, I felt safe giving up control to my team. They took care of me as if I was the only person in the world, or one of their closest family members. I had a lot of questions about my care, and all my worries and concerns were met; they didn’t push anything aside.

There are plenty of good doctors out there, but I believe Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center is where it’s at — where great things happen.

You can see it in how the teams of researchers and physicians work together. The same doctors taking care of me in their clinical offices are also conducting cutting-edge research, taking part in clinical studies, and discovering new treatments that are changing the world.

I was so lucky to end up with the specialists in my treatment team. My quality of life was a huge factor in every decision they made. They wanted to know who I was, what was important to me, how I lived, and how I wanted to get back to my life.

It’s been nine years since my treatment. To date, the reports have been good, and there is no sign of my cancer returning. I know no one can promise that will always be true, but today it is.

— As told to Saul Wisnia
saul_wisnia@dfci.harvard.edu

Courtesy of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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