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Attention Virginia Cancer Specialists Patients: There is a system outage and certain functions, such as scheduling, may not be available today. We will call patients to schedule any upcoming appointments when the system is back online. Our clinics remain open and previously scheduled appointments will continue as planned. We apologize for any inconvenience.

 

Sonja Sulcer

Decide to have an impact. Doing something for someone else can help the healing process. You can still maximize your potential despite the cancer diagnosis.

Facing the Fear of Cancer Treatment

I was diagnosed with HER-2 positive breast cancer in November 2021. I had my regular mammogram, which led to a biopsy. I was initially diagnosed at stage 0, but after surgery, I was diagnosed at stage 1. My mother died from uterine cancer in 2014, and my aunt also passed away from uterine cancer last year, so obviously receiving a cancer diagnosis was devastating. But I’m a person of faith and leaning on that gave me strength.

What I struggled with was my fear of treatment. When you tell someone you have cancer, and you tell them you’re starting treatment, they often tell you how sorry they are. It’s like this fear would overcome them, and you’d almost have to comfort them more than they’re comforting you. You immediately think of all the scary stories around chemotherapy—people would say to me “Oh no, you’re going to lose your hair,” but they have nothing else to give you but that fear. I remember sitting there my first day of chemotherapy and signing this paper acknowledging the potential negative side effects and thinking that I couldn’t go through 12 weeks of treatment with that fear. I decided to encourage myself during the process, and that, along with my faith and the support of my excellent care team got me through.

Finding Comfort in My Care Team

Dr. Vargas, my physician assistant Mary Zempolich, Dr. Anne Favret and the whole breast cancer team at Virginia Cancer Specialists really show that they care about their patients. Dr. Vargas was very patient with me and took care to explain the science behind my treatment plan to make me feel comfortable. When a doctor treats you like you’re capable of understanding the science, that goes a long way. I truly felt like he was treating me the way he would treat a family member.

The nurses at the infusion center are amazing! You spend a lot of time with them when you’re going through treatment. When I was there every week, they became like family. I appreciate the support and thoroughness of the entire oncology team.

Affirming My Own Strength

When I was receiving treatment, I decided to combat my fear of the process by creating affirmations. I would take the words of various cancer treatments, and I would write acrostic poems. I would take each letter of the word and use that to spell out another word or phrase. I knew I wanted to lean on my faith, so I took the word chemo, and I wrote the following Call on our Holy, Everlasting, Magnificent God. Our help comes from Him. So instead of this treatment that scared me, I was seeing something that comforts me. Eventually, I created an affirmation journal to share with other women, and  now the I Am More Than A Conqueror Journal is a bestseller on Amazon. I also developed a coloring book that helps cancer patients relax during treatment, as well as a devotional, called Strengthen Your Faith: 15 Words of Encouragement: A Devotional For Cancer Treatment.