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Melissa's story, in her words

Updated: Mar 1

On a sweltering July day last summer, my mom and I were at the Barnstable County Fair. We were making our way to the exit when my phone rang. Falmouth Hospital showed on the caller ID. I had been expecting this call. Three days earlier, I had my first ever mammogram at 38 years old. The day after my mammogram, I had a biopsy. After the procedure, the doctor on call told me bluntly that I had at least a 50% chance of having breast cancer. I was anticipating this phone call, and somehow expected the news even before hearing it from the nurse. "You have invasive ductal carcinoma." I'd like to say that time stopped, but it didn't. My mom, who was with me, was surprised by how calm I was. The absence of shock was due, in part, to the fact that I had already faced the C word thirteen years earlier when I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer at 25. The first time I found out I had cancer, my world was knocked off its axis. The second time, I was dazed, yet determined to beat it once again.

As the nurse rattled off the medical decisions I would have to make, she also mentioned a local organization that offered help and support to cancer patients and their families. It was Cape Wellness Collaborative. As fate would have it, I had first learned about CWC years prior. In 2015, I took part in the Community Leadership Institute of Cape Cod. One of my classmates was Sarah Swain. She had started CWC in 2014 and radiated excitement about her nascent non-profit. A few days after my diagnosis, Kathy from Falmouth Hospital mailed me a packet of information about breast cancer, including a pamphlet from CWC. I remember calling the CWC office, the words, "I have breast cancer," still sounding strange and foreign on my tongue, "I was told you might be able to help me." And so they did. My husband picked up a freezer full of delicious meals and smoothies that were a lifesaver after long days of meeting with surgeons, trying to decide the best option for my diagnosis. CWC also sent a gift card towards wellness therapies. I was ecstatic that acupuncture was one of the services offered. I had been first introduced to acupuncture when I got sober in late December of 2018 and was well aware of its myriad benefits. I had even gone to sessions at Community Acupuncture of Cape Cod with Diana Di Gioia and now I could go for free. It was such a blessing. Acupuncture has helped through all the phases of my treatment, from the anticipatory anxiety of major surgery to fatigue from radiation to help with numerous symptoms of chemically induced menopause. Each time I thought my wellness card benefits were coming to an end, I would be surprised and delighted to find that CWC was able to add more funds to my account. Even my amazing husband, who was caretaker extraordinaire, was able to get several massages courtesy of CWC.

This incredible organization has filled our stomachs and eased our bodies and minds, but it didn't end there. I also attend a weekly zoom group led by Deborah Ennis, who is a LMHC and holistic health practitioner. Deborah begins each hour and fifteen minute session with a short, guided meditation to help center the participants and bring us into the present moment. We then go around the "zoom room" sharing what is going on in our lives. It was through a suggestion in this group that I was introduced to my therapist, Mary-Lynn Swanson. Not only is she a breast cancer survivor, but her office is also in the same building as Community Acupuncture. Today, I am making my health, both mental and physical, a priority. I try to eat clean whenever possible, exercise regularly, stay spiritually connected through church, and practice a 30-minute silent meditation every morning upon awakening. I owe so many of these healthy habits to CWC, a local community that cared for me when I couldn't care for myself.

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