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Suzanne - Breast Cancer Recurrence

Suzanne - Breast Cancer Recurrence

Suzanne is a nurse consultant with her own business. She consults with assisted living communities, adult family homes, and supported living communities to teach, train, certificate, and supervise medical techs and certified nurse assistants who work there. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of her clients are scrambling to keep residents safe, so she is currently very busy.

Suzanne was born in Surrey, England, but she and her family immigrated to northern California in 1960. She's returned to Britain many times, but became an American citizen in 2000, when they officially allowed dual citizenship between the two countries.

Suzanne joined the Air Force in 1965 as a medic and became a nurse in 1978. For many years she worked as a hospice nurse specialist, then as nurse consultant for the State of Washington. But she also received her BA in European Studies from SPU in 1994 and a Master's in Liberation Theology - a movement in Christian theology, developed mainly by Latin American Roman Catholics, that emphasizes liberation from social, political, and economic oppression - from Regent College in 2000. She's a very well-rounded individual.

Suzanne has been a medical missionary and interpreter to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico on many occasions, where she provided inoculations against intestinal worms and did well-checks, but also dug wells for safe drinking water, constructed latrines, and built homes. In the states, she served with Habitat for Humanity, building homes. 

In 2006 Suzanne was still working for the State when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. "With all the treatments – multiple surgeries, conventional radiation therapy delivered with X-rays, and hormone therapy," says Suzanne, "I didn't feel like I could handle both working and battling cancer. And when I finished, I decided I wanted to start my own business."

Then, in November 2016, she noticed two lumps the size of small peas on her sternum. Unfortunately, they turned out to be a recurrence of her breast cancer. Though there was much back and forth about what was to be done – with one recommendation being double mastectomy and conventional radiation, her surgeon at Polyclinic, Dr. Ames Smith, eventually removed the lumps. She credits him with saving her life! Dr. Smith then referred her for proton therapy with Dr. Fang.

"She said, 'Of course we can do this. Proton therapy will allow us to best minimize the amount of overlap with your prior radiation,'" says Suzanne. "I was so, so happy to hear that." A breast reconstruction specialist then evened out her breasts, which had been affected by her pervious conventional radiation. She's very happy with the results and absolutely fascinated by the process.

Suzanne very much appreciated the staff at the Center –the concierge staff, nurses and radiation therapists, and doctors. "They were kind, answered all my questions, engaged with my goofiness, took photos with me, and even held me when I cried."

Suzanne with part of her treatment team. 

Suzanne gets ready for treatment in her monogrammed robe.

Ready for treatment to begin.

Now she sees Dr. Fang once a year for a follow up. And Suzanne has not slowed down. Besides running her own business, she earned a Certificate in Medieval History from Cambridge University Summer Intensive Programme in 2018. "I lived in the student dorms, which was quite an experience for a 72-year old person!" she recalls. She also reads historical fiction, sews needed items for both animal rescues and "Be the Difference," an outreach to homeless people, dabbles in photography, attends her church, and, of course, visits England as often as she can.