A Year Later: My Reflection Back
By Brooke Valentine
The best news in the world is to hear your doctor tell you that you are cancer free. I must say that a year later, and with all the obstacles you go through when you’re battling this ugly disease, it is hard not to come out of it a different person and a very humble one at that. I can’t begin to explain all the kinds of feelings that go through your thoughts as you learn what you need to do if you want a chance to beat this thing and continue living.
(Aptos Times, March 1 2016, Never Saw It Coming by Noel Smith – Brooke Valentine is a fitness professional helping and teaching others to be fit since 1979. In October of 2015 she found out that she had breast cancer through her yearly mammogram. There was no warning. At the age of 62 Brooke found herself having a life threatening disease without employer-provided health insurance. Her “California Covered policy” had a $5,000 yearly deductible. Within three months of the diagnosis, she owed $10,000 (2015 plus 2016) for her fight against cancer in addition to medical expenses not covered plus her normal living expenses. “I didn’t realize how quickly debt could grow,” said Brooke.)
October is breast cancer awareness month and how profound it was for me to find out that month, I had breast cancer and at that point my journey to fight this thing, this ugly thing – this lump in my breast, had begun. I think for most parts of this fight I was numb about what was going on for me, the realization that I would be out of work for a long time and how on earth was I going to pay for everything weighed heavily on my mind.
Asking for help wasn’t easy for me and my closest of friends came to my rescue to help me cope and keep me from freaking out on all levels. They took turns staying with me after the chemo treatments started to make sure, especially in the beginning, that I wasn’t in any danger of heart problems with the chemo cocktail of four hours being put into a port in my chest.
I can remember after one of my treatments sitting on the couch at my home and not being able to put any of my thoughts together and or focus on anything – basically feeling really weird in such a strange way that I wondered if I would ever stop thinking like this and if I would ever be the same again… it was just awful. Then I find out about this thing called chemo brain and I thought it was a joke. But no, Google it and it tells you it is a real side effect of this chemo stuff. All of this is just crazy and it was extremely hard to cope with at times.
When I had the last chemo infusion before my surgery, there was a fundraiser event for me to help with my medical expenses and all the bills that I no longer could afford. A group of my friends spent about four months putting all of this together. It was held at Michaels on Main and was a huge success due to the hard work and determination of a group of women friends that called themselves the ground crew.
Aleta Johnson, Brenda Sproule, Lisa Whitman and Denise Barnett, were along with another group of dear friends Vicki Sharnokow, Stephanie Gelman, Rose Moiseff, Julie Tait that helped out with babysitting me and making sure I was behaving and getting food in me even when I couldn’t taste it and had no appetite for anything. They seemed to be watching my every move to make sure I was doing what I needed to do to keep with the routine that had been laid out for me by the oncologist and cancer team.
These ladies were my lifeline, my soul mates, our friends, and I’m proud to call my family. If it wasn’t for them and many others that shared their time, love, and support, I don’t know if I would have made it.
My reflection, a year later after having started back to work in the industry that I love passionately, is a blessing. I now work at Gold’s Gym in Watsonville. I’m coping and learning all over again and it is finally feeling like I never left. The members from the old club I worked at have been very sweet and gracious with all of their questions on my health. I can’t say enough how special the welcoming it has been with the members and how appreciative I am with Vince & Martina Sobles-Moran for giving me the opportunity to work with their great team and member base.
I won’t lie, I still have some aftereffects from this experience – mentally & physically, but I’m going in the right direction. The doctors tell me the next four years are the greatest time for the (C) thing to come back into my body. But I know if it does, I have the love & support of a community that I will cherish for the rest of my life and hold very dear in my heart for all that you have done and given me … a place called home and opportunity to continue on.