As Breast Cancer Awareness month drew to a close, One Brooklyn Health brought together 60 breast cancer patients and survivors for an afternoon of pampering and celebrations at Brookdale Hospital.
While the hospital worked to bring more awareness to breast cancer, it also wanted to show people fighting the disease that they are not alone — and to bring a little positivity to their days. The Oct. 23 event was inspired in part by Brookdale’s Dr. Sandra Scott and her mother, who is a breast cancer survivor.
Just a year ago, Thelma Oliver was diagnosed with breast cancer at Brookdale after she found a lump in her right breast. Brookdale’s Breast Surgical Oncologist, Dr. Simone Mays, was on vacation when Oliver first came in, she said — but the staff called to explain her situation, and Mays saw Oliver right away.
Oliver got a mastectomy after the lump in her breast burst — and later on, a lumpectomy after she found a smaller lump in her left breast.
“I got that early, thank god,” she said. “Thank god for Dr. Mays.”
After her surgeries, Oliver received radiation therapy and reconstructive surgery.
“Somebody said to me, ‘You are here, you’re still here,’ and I keep those words with me every day,” Oliver said. “As I go about, my day, I say, ‘Yes, I’m still here.’ God’s not finished with me yet, and I give thanks.”
Attendees were pampered with spa treatments with products from Anoz Spa and The Green Spa and Wellness Center — the latter of which was co-founded by a breast cancer survivor, Maureen Brody.
Brody created her own body moisturizer while she was receiving radiation treatments, she explained. While it was killing the cancer cells in her body, the radiation was also causing radiation dermatitis — a common side effect that turns the skin dry, sore, and itchy.
Her doctors recommended typical drugstore moisturizers, but Brody wanted to use something all-natural — she didn’t know what had caused her cancer, and didn’t want to use any more chemicals than were necessary on her body.
“You want to detox, you don’t want to put chemicals, you don’t know what caused [the cancer,] she said. “There’s a lot of fear involved in all of that, you want to just get rid of all the toxins in your body and go back to nature.”
She spoke with some of the estheticians and dermatologists she knew from the spa and used raw ingredients to whip up her own cream.
“It became like the most luxurious cream that I’ve ever tried,” Brody said.
Her doctors at Sloane Kettering were impressed too, and even started carrying the products in their office. Since then, she has developed a whole line of oncology-friendly face and body products, and said she was “honored” to be able to pamper the women at Brookdale with them.
Among those celebrating was Diane Isaac, a 17-year breast cancer survivor. She discovered a lump in her breast during a monthly self-exam just five days after her annual mammogram, which had come back clean, she explained. The skin over the lump was itchy, and the lump itself was small — it felt like an uncooked grain of rice, she explained.
But she went back to the doctor and was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, which required a double mastectomy and the removal of “many” lymph nodes.
“Now, I’m here today!” Issac said. “All I say is, don’t depend on the doctor, don’t depend on your boyfriend, or your man, or your woman, or whoever it is — to find things! Know your body. I am proud to be a survivor, and I am proud to spread the word to other women.”
Getting a cancer diagnosis is a frightening situation, she said, but one patients have to meet head-on. It took her a year after diagnosis to get back to her old self, but now, 17 years later, Isaac described herself as “thriving.”
“I’ve got this [good] right man next to me, and all my grandkids, and my daughter, and now I have a great-grandson I have to look forward to,” Isaac said. “I’m blessed, I’m happy.”