Take Charge

Hazel's Story

May 25, 2015

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"Moffitt’s resources were there for us when we needed them the most."

In the summer of 2007, at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with breast cancer; it was the most frightening event of my life. As a young mother with an 11-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son, I was scared at the thought of my kids growing up without me.

My treatment plan included a double mastectomy, radiation, chemotherapy and reconstruction. I was told I would lose all my hair, and over a period of weeks I watched as my hair fell out. I remember one day coming out of the shower, looking in the mirror and seeing a shiny bald headed person with no breasts staring back at me. Even with my family’s support, I didn’t feel pretty or feminine. I wondered if I would ever feel normal again. On top of not feeling like myself, I had to understand what I viewed as a complicated health care system. Being 33, my only real previous health care experience was during the birth of my children.

As a young mother with cancer, I had a lot of questions and concerns. Moffitt’s resources were there for us when we needed them the most. I’m glad the business office was able to help us with some financial difficulties. Families First was the perfect resource for my family and I am very thankful it was available. As a family, we attended and together learned how to cope with my cancer diagnosis and the changes that were occurring as I went through treatment. I valued the impact this program had on my children. I was always concerned about what they were going through. Families First gave them the opportunity to meet other children in similar situations and to feel safe sharing their feelings.

I also made the decision, with the support of my physician, to look into genetic testing. Because of his recommendation, and the testing, I was able to get treatment to help prevent cancer in my future.

Access to all these resources and the support of my health care team helped me feel like I could do this.

It’s been six years since my diagnosis, and I feel like myself again. I went back to school, and now I’m a licensed massage therapist. I’m currently pursuing a career in Medical Massage for cancer patients so I can help others through their battle with cancer.

Families First is a program to help parents and their children as they adjust to the changes that occur within the family when a parent has cancer. For more information, please visit MOFFITT.org/FamiliesFirst or call the Social Work Office at 813-745-8407.

Content for this story is from PARTNERS winter 2015; a newsletter of the Patient and Family Advisory Program. For more information about the Patient and Family Advisory Program, please email Kim.Buettner@Moffit.org or call 813-745-1390.