Amazing Medicine

Suzy Bock, RN, Eugene, Oregon

Breast cancer surgery

Suzy Bock went to get her first mammogram on Christmas Eve 2007. She was 42, had no family history of breast cancer, and always did her self-checkups. So when she got the call that every woman dreads after a mammogram, Suzy was surprised.

“They said, ‘We’re going to need to do a biopsy,’” she explained.

The biopsy, an ultrasound and breast MRI quickly followed that first call, and then the definite diagnosis: Suzy had breast cancer.

“At the time, my daughter was only 13,” Suzy recalled. “During the first 24 hours, all these questions flashed through my mind: Will I see my daughter graduate? Will I see her get married?”

She also wondered about her job. Suzy had always wanted to be a nurse, going back to school later in life, at age 38, to earn a nursing degree from Lane Community College. She had a job she loved, working as a nurse on the neurology floor at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

“I was diagnosed in January. We were moving to the new hospital at RiverBend in August. I really wanted to be part of the move. I wanted to be there for the patients,” Suzy explained.

Suzy’s oncologist, Dr. Thomas Trezona of Cascade Surgical Oncology, laid out the options for treatment, with Suzy choosing the most aggressive: double mastectomy. She had her surgery in February at Sacred Heart Medical Center, a familiar place. In fact, her patient room was directly below the nursing floor where she had worked for three years.

A month following her surgery, after learning valuable lessons about patient care by being “in the bed” and on the other side of the health care experience, Suzy returned to her job at Sacred Heart and was able to participate in both the planning of the move to RiverBend, as well as the actual patient move on Aug. 10, 2008.

“I love our hospital, and I love what we do,” said Suzy.

In the time since her first surgery in 2008, Suzy opted to enter the hospital one more time as a patient, to have both her ovaries removed to prevent the cancer from recurring. Now, as a two-year breast cancer survivor, she has found a new sisterhood within her PeaceHealth family.

“PeaceHealth stood behind me during my treatment. My co-workers and my manager always told me, ‘Whatever it takes, whatever you need, we’re here,’” she said.

Since that first phone call, Suzy’s life has changed both at work and at home. “I consciously take the time to be present, whether it’s talking to my husband and daughter over breakfast, or stopping at a patient’s bedside. I try to make sure each person gets my full attention in that moment,” she said.

These days, Suzy, who is currently training to work in the Intensive Care Unit at Sacred Heart, believes that breast cancer is not what defines her, but she said, “It is a part of me.”

The experience has made her both proud and thankful. “I’m proud that I faced a really tough diagnosis, and did everything I could within my power to make sure I’m here for my daughter and my husband in the future.”

“To be thankful for cancer is hard,” she explained, “but it’s because of this experience, I’m able to help and encourage others in a way that would have been impossible without walking the walk.”

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