My name is Vickie Weigel. My introduction to the Oklahoma Proton Center in 2010 was not when I was battling cancer, but when I accompanied a family member for a consult. From the very first day, I felt drawn to the center and desired to work there. I talked with Nycke White about it, and we agreed there was a need for a proton therapy advocate. Six months later, I was hired. Over the next few years, we shared our advocacy program with three other proton Centers in Chicago, Seattle, and New Jersey.
EMPLOYEE TO PATIENT
Three years after starting at the center, a routine mammogram showed both breasts were clear. Two weeks later, I visually noticed a small crease in my left breast. Ironically, I was in a meeting for breast cancer awareness month when a radiologist friend said it should be checked. An ultrasound was scheduled, and the results were obvious…cancer. The reason mammograms had not detected it was because of dense breast tissue, the identical conclusion made eight months later by Joan Lunden’s oncologist.
I soon realized that there are many varieties of breast cancer and several recommended treatments. Even though I had worked at the proton center for over 3 years, I conducted thorough research on all my treatment options before making a decision regarding my health. My lumpectomy was in November, an additional surgery in December and then I began a 16-week regimen of chemotherapy in January. With chemo, I had the usual reactions of hair loss, feeling terrible, and tiredness. Once chemotherapy was complete, I was then able to be treated with 32 proton therapy treatments.
WHY I CHOSE PROTON THERAPY
I chose proton therapy because I wanted the best option for my future quality of health, and I knew that it would protect my heart and lungs from possible harmful radiation. At the time I was diagnosed, my youngest daughter was only 12. Since her dad was deceased it was very important to be able to be there for her. I’m thankful I have been able to teach her to drive, watch her become a competitive swimmer, and have gotten to be so involved in her senior year of high school. My older daughter was 22 and I was able to be fully active in planning and attending her wedding, and she has made me a “Grammy”!
I would never have suspected breast cancer if not for that small indention. My advice is to be on watch whether there is breast cancer in your family or not, get scheduled mammograms, and find out if you, too, have dense breast tissue. Above all, advocate for your health, research your options, and call Oklahoma Proton Center to see if you could benefit from this cutting edge therapy.