I started off my new normal - the normal of cancer - by feeling lucky... lucky to be in the care of wonderful doctors that I trust implicitly, lucky for insurance (even though they continue to disappoint), lucky for Yale, for everything. But most of all, I am lucky to have such incredible support from family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers.
A few months ago, before one of my treatments, I was speaking with my oncologist, Dr. Silber, about why she became an oncologist, which led to a discussion about the disparity within the healthcare system. She spoke about how nice it was to see all the support I’d received and how great it has been to get to know my family so well, as they accompanied me to every appointment. Now, when I go in for a routine scan or check-up, the entire medical staff - receptionists to doctors - seem disappointed if I am alone.
Dr. Silber told me this network of support is an anomaly, that I am not the norm. The majority of her patients do not have anyone to support them—at treatment or at home. She said that often their concern is about their pets... who will take them if treatment doesn’t work? They are truly alone in the hell that is cancer, navigating it on their own with little to no resources outside of the hospital. This is why Dr. Silber does what she does. It is her mission to change this epidemic... to support and educate women before they become her patient. She takes her knowledge to community centers and health care offices around the state of CT, so that all women have access to the appropriate resources so that they can protect and advocate for themselves. This struck a chord with me.
I had gone to Smilow alone that day. After my appointment, I waited in the lobby of the infusion lab for my name to be called. When I am riding solo, I like to look around. It is amazing all the things that I missed when I was surrounded by people during treatment. An older woman came and sat beside me while her daughter occupied the chair across from us. I started talking with her... she asked me how her daughter would feel, if she would lose her hair, and how she was going to get to treatment, worried it would be difficult as she needed to take the bus on most days. I looked at the daughter and asked how she was. She pulled down the collar of her shirt to reveal her newly placed port. It was her first day of treatment. She asked the same questions her mother did, and—acknowledging that I am not a doctor—I asked what drugs they had her on... that perhaps they were the same as mine and I could lend some sort of guidance. She said she didn’t know. In fact, she didn’t know the type of cancer she had... she was terrified that she had cancer, that was all. I put myself in her shoes. I remember that day vividly. The eerie calm that fell over me, knowing I was proactively fighting the beast that had burglarized my body. I was equipped though. I had an arsenal of people to help me ask the questions I was too scared to... to listen when I couldn’t... and to hold my hand and ensure me I was not alone. This woman and her mother were alone. It was obvious to me that the fright she was experiencing was not only because of the cancer, but also of the unknown. I wanted to do something. I had to do something.
Over a year ago, Lindsay and I started a company called Treatment Trunk. It has been through an evolution… but that day at Smilow solidified it all. Treatment Trunk is a gift box service for women undergoing treatment for cancer. It is entirely non-profit and funded by donations from people and companies alike. With a donation you can receive a bracelet in support of the cause, or send a hand-packed gift box to someone curated to fit their current phase of treatment and interests. With your purchase, a box will be gifted and delivered to patients undergoing treatment in the many underserved communities around CT. We have teamed up with Dr. Silber to help identify those locations that need it most. We want everyone to know they are not alone and that we have their back. Our website—while currently in its infancy—will have blog posts from myself and Lyn, other patients and caregivers, as well as interviews with experts in the field.
Treatment Trunk will make its first donation to Smilow this week. We are gifting bracelets to women on their first day of treatment, letting them know of the cause and of our support. This company has been a labor of love for quite some time now, back when my head was shaved so i hadn’t yet realized my hair was falling out. It has input from many who have been down this path themselves, and from those who helped me navigate mine.
The site is www.treatmenttrunk.com and the Go Fund Me campaign is up and running. Whether you choose to support with a high-five, a donation, or by buying a bracelet, we appreciate all you have done for me and my family over the last two years. This entire project is inspired by you all. It is our turn now to give back. Let’s get to work!
xo Becky (+ Lindsay)