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“When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
10 years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Doreen McCallum-Reich still feels comfortable calling her oncologist, Michael Henderson, M.D., of Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals. “If anything a little quirky is going on I will call him and he will get back to me right away,” she claims.
On December 23rd, 2003, Doreen was told she had breast cancer. “Life as I knew it was over,” she said. She went for lumpectomy on December 26, and her surgeon referred her to Dr. Henderson. Doreen and Dr. Henderson clicked immediately. Doreen gushed about her experience: “I would follow him to the end of the world,” she said when she referenced his fluctuating office locations before he found a home at Henry Ford Macomb. “He doesn’t rush through appointments. I never feel like he was rushed and he seems to give everyone the same amount of attention.”
Throughout the course of her care Doreen was impressed with the bedside manner of her care team and the empathy she got from the staff. “They are human too and they understand.” She described that there were times they would cry with her.
Doreen started chemo in February, but not before returning to her job at WJR radio. She was very determined to keep busy so that she would not think about what was going on with her health. She felt in control at work. “I had no more control over this part of my life anymore,” she said, regarding her health.
Doreen admitted that chemotherapy changed her body’s chemistry. When she lost her hair after the second treatment it was black. It grew back salt and pepper. “I thought losing my hair would be a big deal and would bother me but it didn’t even matter,” she said. “Things that used to be important to me went out the window after the cancer diagnosis.”
Doreen’s battle did not end there. Just one month after she finished her chemo treatments she underwent 6 weeks straight of radiation.
Although Doreen was one of twelve brothers and sisters (3 of which have had breast cancer at one point) she decided to see a therapist after being diagnosed. Doreen was adamant that she did not want sympathy from others, which is how her family would have reacted. The nurse practitioner suggested a therapist. “It was great being able to get things out and talk about my cancer,” she said. The therapist started Doreen on guided imagery because she was having so many sleepless nights. This helped tremendously.
Along with the therapist and the staff at Henry Ford, Doreen was supported by others as well. Her daughter, an avid dancer, handled her mother’s diagnosis well. “She never skipped a beat,” beamed Doreen. Her daughter has been dancing her whole life and the ‘dance moms’ would make them dinner and help with driving to and from class.
A few years after her diagnosis Dr. Henderson referred her to Imerman Angels, a one-on-one cancer support program for cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers. These one on one relationships offered Doreen hope and she has been involved with the program for over 5 years.
“I sit down sometimes and think about how I got here and decided, faith got me through this.” Doreen claims that her faith in God was strengthen during her fight against cancer.
Advice to others:
- Live each day as though it is your last.
- Keep the faith.
- Consider attending fundraising walks that raise money and awareness for cancer. Theses walks are helpful because you see other patients – and they are smiling.
Advice to caregivers and friends:
- If you do not know what to say at this point in our lives, a hug would say it all.