Warming Hearts of Rockland
Comfort during chemotherapy
After years of being told that I had "dense" breasts, and after having two negative biopsies, I always was diligent about getting my mammograms and doing my monthly self-exams. When I was 48, I thought I started to feel something different in my left breast, but not on every exam. While I assumed it was hormonal changes, I thought it needed to be investigated, so I moved up my routine mammogram by a couple of months. I told the technician that I was feeling changes, but she nevertheless told me that the radiologist didn't see anything on the mammogram and they would see me next year. Within six weeks from that mammogram, my left breast changed shape and I sought the advice of a breast specialist.
Although not evident on ultrasound, there was a mass in my left breast. The surgical biopsy indicated that I had Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. After chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomy, traditional implant-based reconstruction and radiation, my breast reconstruction failed. After another breast reconstruction (thanks to Dr. Israeli and his entire team!), I looked forward to days on my calendar without medical appointments.
About one year later, another mother from my son's bowling team mentioned a community service project she was developing. She planned to collect and then distribute comforting items to people starting chemotherapy. I immediately told her I would be interested in working with her on it. She had never gone through chemotherapy, but had sat with others who had, and I had my own experience to draw from for ideas. Together, we developed "Warming Hearts of Rockland" and started soliciting community donations. We collect and distribute bags with items such as new throw blankets, weekly planners, memo pads and pens, and water to local infusion centers, which are given to people starting chemotherapy treatments. Later that year, we expanded and started providing helpful items – snack packs, lip balms, assorted toiletries – to comfort patients and families visiting loved ones at our local hospice house.
Some people are fortunate enough to have family members and close friends to whom they can turn for support when they go through chemotherapy or care for their loved ones, others may not be so fortunate. The goal of this community project is to let our own neighbors know that others in their own community are thinking of them during difficult times in their lives.
I have been the coordinator of "Warming Hearts of Rockland" for the last three years. This is not “my” project. Rather, I only provide one way that people in the community can show that they care for one another – it is the entire community’s project. I have been told that some patients have tears in their eyes when given a bag; one woman told me she was "speechless." Others have made donations to the project in honor of their doctor, their nurses and other office staff.
I am thankful for everyone's donations, because the project cannot continue without the support. Some of those who have supported this project are scouts, school groups, individuals, professional organizations and a few companies. Most of this is by word-of-mouth or through our Facebook page.
I found through my own medical journey and in caring for my own elderly parents, that attitude can be very important in helping someone with any serious diagnosis. If I, along with members of my community, can provide anything to brighten someone's day and help their attitude during difficult times, then the project has been a success.