Last June I was shocked and frightened to learn I had breast cancer. I would have sought out medical services closer to home except for a good friend's highest recommendation. Dr. Anthony Cahan, who performed her mastectomy, happened to work at Northern Westchester Hospital. As good fortune would have it, Dr. Cahan, Dr. Michael Rosenberg and the rest of their superb teams took over my surgical care.
Subsequently I was faced with all the implications of continued treatment, including genetic counseling, chemotherapy and radiation (under the expert auspices of Dr. Julie Gold and Dr. Alfred Tinger, respectively). By this time the cumulative stress of all the doctor appointments, biopsies, scans and other procedures was more than I could bear. I became depressed, frightened and overwhelmed with anger. I was afraid my work as psychologist, and my relationships with family and friends, would deteriorate.
Fortunately, one worried staff person took my hand and personally brought me to your Coordinator of the Health and Wellness Program (of the Cancer Treatment & Wellness Center at NWH). That was when the healing, beyond medical attention to pathology and physical recovery, began for me as a whole person. Ms. Leroy-Sterling helped turn my entire outlook around. She took me "under her wing" and then I didn't feel so confused and painfully alone.
Marilyn guided me gradually, depending on my evolving needs, to the different people and services on whom I have come to rely. The Rev. Don Heringa (spiritual nourishment), Annie West (massage and meditation, Mary Gocke (cancer nutrition) and a number of others have helped me in ways I never could have imagined. Their intuitive ways of listening to my anxious questions; reassuring me in non-judgmental words; and generously giving me their understanding, comforting and time have made all the difference in the world.
Marilyn has also personally connected me to the best (for me) people at the American Cancer Society, the Mentor Program at Westchester Jewish Community Services, wig vendors, the "Look Good, Feel Better" program, and all the oncology nurses. When I'm greeted by her receptionist Sharon Iorio, and her contagious smile each time I come, my day lights up and I know I'm in the right place.
People who haven't been to your Northern Westchester Hospital Cancer Center, or who haven't heard of the Planetree Alliance, think I'm so "strong", keeping my spirits and energy level up, especially considering the aggressive chemotherapy I'm currently receiving.
Family and friends can hardly believe the change in me. I attribute my current upbeat manner, quirky humor, hope, and smooth progress through the "protocols", to your remarkable collaborative "wellness" and "integrative medicine" services (under the coordination of Ms. Leroy-Sterling and Dr. Minerva Santos).
I could go on, but let me close by offering you my sincerest gratitude. It is true that a hospital's commitment to patients' needs for special care, beyond the bottom line of medical expertise, speeds healing and recovery for the whole human being. I know wellness programs don’t come easy. That is why I pray that, in these difficult times, the hospital will be able to secure the necessary funding so future patients can find the same level of supports and enormous kindness that you now provide.
I certainly have wonderful experiences and great good will to celebrate this holiday season. May the New Year bring even more successes and accomplishments for you, and for Northern Westchester Hospital as well.