Throughout October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, patients, survivors and their loved ones often experience complex emotions, from anxiety and fear of the unknown to confusion to gratitude for a successful outcome.
At Summus, we help people and their families navigate each experience and help them move from fear to empowerment. And we believe that great physicians are the key to helping our members more confidently navigate their cancer journeys.
Summus Member Jenn* shares her breast cancer story and how Summus provided comfort and support throughout her journey. In her words, Summus “was like finding a life raft in the ocean, one I clung to throughout my diagnosis and subsequent treatment.”
Please take a moment to read Jenn’s moving story.
- Please tell us a little about how your breast cancer journey started.
As a 51 year old wife and mom of two young adults, I have always put others before me. Add on the pandemic and it is no surprise that I put off my mammograms. I have always thought of myself as a healthy person. I never felt “sick”, and we have no family history of cancer, so when I finally made the appointment, I never suspected. Over the next few weeks I was carried away by doctor appointments, genetic testing, and lab work. It was a whirlwind. The doctor tried to explain things, but it was an entirely new vocabulary and often her words did not penetrate the wall of fear and confusion.
- What led you to reach out to Summus?
At the time, it seemed like each pathology report, additional test or examination conflicted with the ones before it. I was very lost and confused by the entire process and did not feel like I had the information I needed to make informed decisions about my own care. It proved difficult to trust the doctor I had met only weeks before. I was an emotional mess and needed someone to help me through the process.
- How did Summus help you understand your diagnosis and treatment options?
Summus explained how they could help me connect with experts and renowned medical specialists who could help me to make the most well informed decisions possible. It was like finding a life raft in the ocean – one I clung to throughout my diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Through Summus, I was connected with Dr. Mark Pegram, the Director of Breast Cancer and Medical Oncology, from Stanford University who met with me virtually several times throughout my treatment. Dr. Pegram reviewed all my test results, explained in detail how the results defined my cancer, and suggested questions and treatment options that I could discuss with my oncologist.
- Did you change any part of your treatment pathway after connecting with Summus?
I ended up changing my medical provider after the first surgery because I needed a team approach, which I felt was more aligned with my needs. During our conversations, Dr. Pegram gave me the confidence to walk into every appointment well informed and less fearful.
- How did your experience with Summus positively impact you?
The Summus program has been a blessing because it meant that I was not alone and was connected with experts who could help me navigate the complex world of cancer treatments. The future is pretty bright. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how cancer has impacted my life, but I feel good that the choices we made early on will provide the best possible outcome.
- What’s the one thing you wish you knew at the beginning of your cancer journey?
If there is one thing I wish I knew at the beginning of my journey, it is that each cancer is as unique as the person who has it. People will want to share how they managed their diagnosis — the good and the bad. I expected it to be the same for me and it really wasn’t. While I can share with folks in the universality of cancer, I learned to rely on myself and my medical team to dictate treatment.
- What would you tell others just starting a cancer journey?
For those folks just getting a cancer diagnosis, I recommend taking a deep breath and sitting with it for a day. You will be tempted to jump into getting answers and next steps, but honestly you need to take just 24 hours to let it be. I went to the mountains by myself for the day and watched out over the valley. I talked to myself in the car the whole way to and fro, and it was a powerful way to get my own emotions in check before having to share with family and friends. You need your family and friends desperately, but you will need yourself most.
For Summus Members
Are you or a loved one dealing with a cancer diagnosis and need help understanding your diagnosis and treatment options? Please reach out, and we will match you with a specialist to walk you through all your questions.
For Employers and Payers
Summus provides fast access to the world’s leading specialists for expert medical advice for cancer and across the continuum of care. Learn more about Summus Oncology and our virtual care approach across all stages of the cancer journey.
*Name anonymized for privacy.