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Marie Botchie

Breast cancer - Stage IIIB

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.

View CTCA treatment results for breast cancer

Overview

My story

When I found out that I had cancer, I decided that I was going to make cancer the best thing that ever happened to me, not the worst. At 39 years old I was diagnosed with stage IIIB breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. I’d been told the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and bloodstream, and I had a 49 percent survival rate. I was not about to accept those odds!

My husband, Michael, had lost his dad to colon cancer two years earlier and he was determined it wasn’t going to happen to me. He went online and learned about the integrative care offered at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). He spoke with an Oncology Information Specialist about the program at CTCA and within a couple of hours, he had set up an appointment for me and announced that we were flying to Chicago. It was more than 2,000 miles from my home in Vernonia, Oregon, outside of Portland, but the distance didn’t faze me in the least. I wanted to live, and I was going to do what it took to make sure I survived.

My first day at CTCA at Midwestern Regional Medical Center, I knew I was in the right place. They offered me so much more than my local doctors had. I underwent a variety of diagnostic tests to help my care team determine where the cancer was in my body and how we needed to treat it. When I met my oncologist, Dr. Citrin, he told me we were going to attack my cancer from every direction possible. My treatment plan consisted of three different chemotherapy drugs delivered in fractionated doses every three weeks, eight weeks of radiation that included TomoTherapy® radiation (given by another one of my favorites, Dr. Eden), and two final doses of chemo. A complete hysterectomy was recommended and performed by Dr. Williams once these treatments were completed.

Not only was my treatment program designed to kill the cancer, it also nurtured me and prepared me for life after cancer, with things like nutrition support, massage, and acupuncture to fight my disease on all fronts. Sharon Day, my nutritionist, re-educated my family and me about how to eat and what to eat. She even grocery-shopped for us and told us what to look for in our foods. My naturopathic clinician, Lise, recommended supplements to help me cope with the side effects of chemo and radiation, and helped me establish a long-term supplemental regimen to stay healthy.

Being away from my family and friends during treatment was hard at times, but a blessing as well. I missed them and worried about them, but it gave me time to reflect and heal. The time I spent alone really put things into perspective and I addressed some anxiety issues I had struggled with long before my cancer. I felt strongly that my stress and negative thoughts had contributed to my getting sick. I wanted to take responsibility for how I got this sick, and then change course.

I also appreciated the support of my family and friends. My husband Michael was at every chemo round, and we included my daughters and Mom on a visit so they could be reassured that I was in the best hands possible, which was important for them to feel good about the care I was receiving.  During my nine-week stay for radiation, my Mom was able to spend a few weeks with me and a very dear friend, Mary, also spent a week with me.

Today, I still travel more than 2,000 miles for my yearly checkups at CTCA. Each visit, I see my entire care team and get the full deal, from a massage, to physical therapy, acupuncture, nutrition, naturopathic medicine, and of course my primary care doctors.  During my last visit, it was wonderful to hear Dr. Eden tell me he never needed to see me again! Of course, I will stop by every year to say “hi” but I am happy to no longer be his patient.

I appreciate the ongoing care I’ve received at CTCA because when you’re fighting cancer, you sometimes forget that life goes on after cancer. I have learned ways to deal with my lymphedema as a result of my cancer treatment. My physical therapist, Stanislav Maravilla, taught me techniques for massaging areas that swell and he also updates me on the latest products to help breast cancer survivors. I was custom-fitted for a pump to drain excess fluid, and he was able to arrange for custom sleeves and garments to help with the compression I need to keep my swelling under control.

In June of 2009, I went back to CTCA for my annual check up and to celebrate my five-year anniversary of being cancer-free with other survivors at CTCA’s Celebrate Life event. While there, I was able to visit my cousin’s husband Jack, who was undergoing treatment for lung cancer. I gave him my HOPE pin during Hope RoundsSM, in which survivors like me share our stories of healing with patients who are actively fighting cancer. I told Jack I’d see him back there in five years celebrating his five-year and my ten-year anniversary of being cancer-free!

There was never any doubt for me that I would be here to celebrate. I had worries and fears, but I practice every day to be the kind of person that I want to be. I’ve seen a lot of life in the five years since my diagnosis. I’ve been able to see both of my daughters graduate from high school; I’ve watched my daughter Larinda get married to a wonderful young man who serves our country; I’ve built a successful business with my husband; and I’ve traveled to Alaska, Ireland, Vegas and many places in between. I’ve watched both my daughters and my husband successfully graduate from the Fire Academy and become firefighters; I’ve raised chickens (something new for me); and I’ve begun compiling our family history. I have only scratched the surface on all of the things I still want to do, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity.

There are many truths I have learned along the way of my cancer journey. It hasn’t always been fun and it certainly hasn’t been easy, but I feel that I am a better person for it. I never could have made it without the support of my family, friends and all of the people I met during my treatment. I believe that modern medicine truly is a miracle. Recovery does not happen in a day, a week or sometimes even a month. Listen to your body and your gut—and you will find the care you need. There are wonderful doctors and nurses out there. Find them! 

I have never been happier. I have faith in myself to be and do more. I find new ways every day to remind myself to live. From the beautiful surroundings I call home, being blessed with the opportunity to be treated at CTCA, and the love of my family and friends…it’s all just one big hug from the universe for me! Thank you!

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