Finding support for her breast cancer journey
Natalie Dubovskaja learned the importance of listening to her body after losing her mother to kidney cancer. “My mother’s cancer was late stage when it was discovered,” said Dubovskaja. “Until then, she had no idea that she had cancer.”
That experience motivated Natalie to pay attention to changes in her own body. She found a lump in her right breast last year. “I didn’t think it was a big deal because I’m young,” said 32-year-old Natalie Dubovskaja. But, her mother’s cancer experience motivated her to get the lump checked.
Natalie had her first mammogram in August 2016 and soon learned she had breast cancer. “I’m so glad I went for the mammogram, because the cancer was found early when it’s very treatable!” She did not expect the cancer diagnosis because of her age. She thinks the mammogram helped save her life. “I want to stress to other women the importance of having a mammogram,” she said.
Going through cancer therapy was stressful. “Being diagnosed with breast cancer changed my life,” said Dubovskaja. Her routine became a series of medical appointments, procedures and hours of treatments. She coped with intense exhaustion and hair loss from 8 chemotherapy treatments over four months. The cancer was removed in a lumpectomy surgery in February 2017 by breast surgeon Cynthia Aks, D.O. with Legacy Medical Group-Surgical Oncology.
Having social and emotional support has been important throughout treatment. “I felt a strong need to talk with other women who had similar issues and to hear first-hand about their experience and what treatment was like,” she said. Natalie got the information and social support she needed through Breast Friends services.
Natalie’s medical team at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center helped her navigate the complex cancer treatment process. She was introduced to a nurse navigator with Legacy Cancer Institute who would help coordinate her medical care. “It was essential to have expert help because I was lost at that time,” she said. “When chemotherapy started, my nurse navigator explained everything about the procedure and what was going to happen.”
The guidance from her medical team helped Natalie gain confidence that everything would go well. Her medical oncologist Samir Desai, M.D. with OHSU Knight-Legacy Health Cancer Collaborative guided her to take things one step at a time. “I was so relieved that I didn’t have to take it all on at once,” she said.
She could not ask for better care or services from her medical providers. “It was amazing what a difference a great team of professionals can make on a patient’s experience.”
Natalie feels well and is taking hormone medication therapy, the last part of her treatment. She is comforted knowing she’s done everything possible to heal her body. “I hope I’m done and don’t have to deal with it ever again,” she said. “I love my doctors and the medical professionals that have cared for me, but I don’t want to be their patient any longer!”
Feeling stronger and healthier means she can enjoy quality time with her husband and family. She stays in touch with women she met through Breast Friends. She has time and energy to enjoy a favorite hobby–painting acrylic landscapes. She finds that painting helps her process her cancer experience and is a good distraction from dwelling on health issues.
She is excited about her life after her treatment. “You must choose how you are going to live after this life-altering experience,” she said. “The transition to what’s next is weird because I’ve made so many changes,” she said. “What I know for sure is that I’m not going back.”
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