Marlowe Conde - Breast Cancer Story
“I was in a meeting when I got the call. It was gut wrenching, like being sucker punched,” breast cancer survivor Marlowe Conde said of receiving the news that she had breast cancer. “I cried. One of my coworkers followed me out of the meeting and gave me a bear hug. Then I called my roommate.”
Marlowe counts the continuing support she received during her diagnosis and treatment as key to her recovery. From the time she first got her diagnosis in January 2008 through her surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, she always had friends with her.
When Marlowe met with her team of doctors—surgeon Andrea Metkus, M.D., oncologist Brian Henderson, M.D., and radiation oncologist Stephen A. Weller, M.D. she brought a friend to help her absorb the information and terminology. Her experience as an information developer/technical writer also helped. She kept detailed records of her treatment, and recorded her meetings with the doctors.
“That way I could listen back at my leisure. It’s pretty overwhelming. It’s all new terminology,” she said.
One of the things she learned was that she had been diagnosed with HER2 positive EP negative breast cancer. HER2 positive cancers grow more quickly and have a higher chance of recurrence. For this reason, she had an extra year of chemotherapy. Following this, she had radiation therapy starting just four days before her 60th birthday.
Through all her treatments, Marlowe attended patient support groups, which proved invaluable. Whether it was getting tips on making it through chemotherapy or gathering strength from a survivor, support groups fueled Marlowe’s recovery. She attended her first support group a week before her surgery, and one of the attendees was just two weeks out of surgery.
“I thought, well it didn’t debilitate her,” said Marlowe. “If she can do it, I can. She clearly felt strong enough and found enough value in the group to get out of bed and come.”
In each group, according to Marlowe, women attended who were in different stages of treatment and recovery. Once her own treatment was underway, Marlowe was able to be a mentor and resource to other patients beginning cancer treatment.
“I know how scared you feel when you’re first diagnosed,” said Marlowe. “I’ve been able to give back. Some women are considering reconstructive surgery, and they can see how I’ve come through it.”
Now cancer-free, Marlowe is planning on retiring and moving to Vancouver, Wash.. If there isn’t a cancer support group near her new home, she plans to start one.
“I think that a big part of my recovery was the support I got in the group,” said Marlowe. “I want to give back by helping others with cancer.”