Denim Day: A fight against breast cancer

This is to document our surgical clinic's participation in the fight against breast cancer by supporting Lee National Denim Day on Friday, October 6. Give $5, wear denim and a pink bow lapel pin to work, and support the Entertainment Industry Foundation's Women's Cancer Programs.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Special Donation From A Special Patient

I want to write about the very last donation made today.
It was the typical full steam ahead day in clinic. But we always look forward to Fridays because that's when a special patient comes in who we'll call Viva. She's been through the wringer: biopsies, mastectomies and now chemotherapy. The loss of her hair, an overall weakening of her body, a future that no doubt feels precious and uncertain.

Viva is one of those unassuming gentle souls who probably thinks that no one notices her. But we do. She's lithe and graceful, her smile is big, her manner is gracious, and she always comes in with either her father or her husband. They drive a long way to get to our office, the result of an HMO plan that contracted with the local hospital, rather than finding one closer to her. It's unfortunate that many patients who are given HMO plans aren't given the information upfront about the location of contracted services. We're finding that our patients are driving from all over L.A. and Orange County to get to us.

Often, she doesn't feel well from her chemo treatments and surgeries. Something like that can make the long drive feel even longer. Yet when you ask how she's doing, she always says, "Fine." We never knew Viva before her life with cancer, but there's a peacefulness about her that's typical of patients who've figured out their priorities. For Viva, it's God, health, family and friends. It's her countenance that makes her so special.

Today was a special day. It was denim day. Her husband drove her in, and she wore a breast cancer baseball cap. In our office, she found herself surrounded by tribute cards, pink bows and a staff wearing denim and pink ribbon lapel pins just for people with breast cancer. But there was another thing that made today different --and it caught us off guard.

After she saw the doctor, she asked if she was supposed to return.
"No, you're done," he said. It was her last visit with us, the rest of her treatment will be in the hands of her oncologist. Her visits with the surgeon were the tough part, like climbing a mountain. She'd just reached the top and was ready to speed down to base camp. Viva would be getting healthy again.
We overheard him and immediately we all rushed out from the other rooms to surround Viva and her husband. We gave her hugs, thanked her for being our patient, and she thanked us.
And then she did something so thoughtful, as other breast cancer patients have done. She donated money to Denim Day. Her husband filled out a tribute card for his wife. It reads, "In Honor of Viva." As they left, we thanked them for driving such a long distance. They looked at us and said, "The distance was worth it, you guys have been great."

They left, clinic resumed its usual pace, but we know taking care of Viva has been our honor.

The angel charm above is available online from the Pink Ribbon Shop for only $9.95.