The statistic is sobering: One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
Michelle Sewell’s life was full to the point of bursting. The 37-year-old Chillicothe wife and mother had two active teen boys, a full-time job, and had recently returned to college for to earn dual majors in business administration and organizational leadership.
Then one day she felt a lump in her breast.
When her doctor confirmed it was cancer, her friend Carey Trout, RN, was by her side. Their sons had played baseball together since they were 8 years old.
“It was God’s timing that she was there when I heard the news, rather than sitting in a room with a doctor by myself,” Michelle said.
She drew upon her faith to get her through the long road ahead. Michelle’s cancer was stage 3. She underwent 16 chemotherapy treatments Hedrick Medical Center with her care team before having surgery.
“I said, ‘Just give me a roadmap and let’s get it done,’” she recalled.
She relied on her busy schedule to distract her during the first weeks. Classes, work, and baseball games took up her time between rounds of chemo. Her sons’ teammates rallied around her, giving her hugs whenever they saw her and saying, “Mama Sewell, we’re praying for you.”
“After chemo I’d go to their games, and to have that support…” Michelle smiled at the memory. “That kept me going.”
She then received follow-up care at Hedrick. That’s when everything caught up with her. While speaking with Annie Stedem-Singer, RN, her nurse navigator at Hedrick, Michelle mentioned she was thinking about quitting school. Annie said no.
“She said, ‘I don’t want to tell you what to do, but you’ve gone through chemo and worked full time and stayed in school, and you’ve made it through. You’ve got to keep going,’” Michelle recalled. “And I realized she was right.”
She stuck with it. In December 2016, Michelle will don that cap and gown to graduate—and she credits her Hedrick support team for not letting her give up.
That personal encouragement wasn’t the only thing that she appreciated. Her Hedrick team moved around tables and chairs at the infusion center so Michelle could do homework. They made the effort to schedule four doctor appointments in Kansas City on the same day so she’d only miss one day of work. They scheduled her infusion so her worst sick days would fall on her day off. They made sure she made it to as many of her two sons’ games as physically possible.
And that’s why Michelle thinks of the doctors and nurses at Hedrick as more than just her cancer care team. They are family.
“They realize there is a life beside cancer,” Michelle said. “I was there to get over it and get on with my life.”
And with faith, love, and hope, that’s exactly what she’s doing.