Savoring the moments One young woman’s journey through breast cancer
Special to The Union
Cancer was the last thing on Megan Peterson’s mind. As the mother of a toddler, full-time manager at a medical office, and loving wife, she was busy yet happy.
Last summer, however, at age 28, Peterson found a small lump in her breast. She went to her primary care doctor, who ordered an ultrasound, which led quickly to further testing via mammogram and a biopsy.
The very day that Peterson had her biopsy at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s Women’s Imaging Center, nurse navigator Linda Aeschliman, RN, stepped in to help. Though test results weren’t even back yet, a team was pulled together and an appointment was scheduled for Peterson to see medical oncologist Dr. Jamie Hung that same day.
It was soon official: Peterson had stage three breast cancer.
“There is literally nothing that can prepare you to hear those three words ‘you have cancer’,” Peterson recalled. “My first thought was ‘Oh my God. I’m going to die.’ Then my husband, Mike, told me that I was strong and would beat this disease to grow old with him. That gave me the strength to get through everything.”
Treatment started immediately at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Community Cancer Center. Peterson shares that she found reassurance in many places throughout the process.
“We have an amazing cancer center; everyone genuinely cares about you and is dedicated to helping you beat the disease,” Peterson said.
She also attended the event Paint the Town Pink just four days after her cancer diagnosis. The event, which is hosted by The Union newspaper and Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation, is meant to educate our community about breast health, celebrate women, and raise funds for treatment and care.
“I saw all of the resources our community has to offer, and it gave me a lot of hope. I met breast cancer survivors who were living happy lives, and it was very inspiring,” Peterson shared.
Aeschliman was at the event as well.
“When Megan arrived, she showed such an attitude of grace and gratefulness. She made us all stop in our busy lives and appreciate every moment,” Aeshilman said.
Peterson underwent two rounds of chemotherapy during her treatment, finishing in January. In June, she learned that she was completely cancer free.
She is very grateful for the outcome, but does not discount the difficulty of the treatments she underwent. One of the hardest moments she remembers was having to shave her head on the day before Thanksgiving. She asked her mom for help and they acknowledged the irony of the situation; Peterson had previously donated her own locks to help cancer patients in the past.
There were other times during treatment when she was too sick to get out of bed. On those days, her husband would bring their daughter, Molly to the room so the three could cuddle and watch cartoons together.
“Having that time to spend with my daughter was priceless. If cancer has shown me anything, it is how precious life is and to cherish every moment,” Peterson said.
As further precaution, Peterson elected to have a double mastectomy and lymph node dissection in her left arm in May, and is undergoing reconstructive surgery.
“That was my silver lining through all of this. I had always wanted larger breasts, so now I finally get them,” Peterson joked.
In celebration of her health, Peterson and her family took a vacation to Maui earlier this month — a lifelong dream realized. She will, however, be back in time to attend this year’s Paint the Town Pink, which takes place from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, October 22 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
“I will absolutely go to this event every year for the rest of my life,” Peterson said.
Over the past eight years, Paint the Town Pink has raised over $168,000 for the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation for the advancement of local breast cancer care.
This year, funding from the event will be used to pilot an Integrative Medicine Program for Breast Cancer patients.
Kimberly Parker, executive director for the SNMH Foundation, shares that the program is the first of its kind at the hospital.
“Our breast cancer patients are expressing more and more that they are interested in exploring treatment options that include both traditional methods and integrative options,” Parker said. “The goal is to connect patients with an Integrative Medicine Navigator who will work one-on-one with those who want to incorporate alternative medicine into their breast cancer care, building a bridge between the hospital and the alternative medicine providers to open the dialogue of integrating western and eastern approaches in breast cancer care.”
Peterson encourages those who have breast cancer to not give up hope. The disease taught her many things about herself and her loved ones.
“As difficult as the situation was, it’s been an amazing journey to see how much love and support I received from my family and the community. I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s amazing how strong you can be when you have to be,” Peterson said.
To learn more about the ninth annual Paint the Town Pink event, or to buy tickets, visit http://www.theunion.com/pink.
To contact the SNMH Hospital Foundation, call 530-477-9700.
All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.
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