Lightening the Load

It was just three weeks before her son’s high school graduation, when forty-four year old Debora Covino found a lump in her breast. From that day on the Hopedale mother of three would be spun into a whirlwind of cancer treatment activity. Her journey, while long and often tough, was made easier by the support services she received through Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center at Milford Regional.

From the beginning Debora felt like her needs were recognized and incorporated into her treatment. “I’m a hair stylist and I need my arms to work,” she explains. “My nurse Mary-Beth and medical oncologist Dr. Kaddis decided to put a port in so that my arms were freed up. It was the best thing ever.” The hallmark of a breast center, which is the fluidity and continuity of care, was evident when Debora’s arm developed some swelling after surgery. She was quickly referred to Milford Regional’s Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine to get her arm back to full functioning.

Debora is grateful for the range of support services offered and how easily they were integrated into her care. Reflexology—which is the application of pressure to different points on the feet that correspond to specific body locations—was one of the first services she took advantage of. It relieved both her nausea and some neuropathy that developed from chemotherapy. “It was wonderful,” she exclaims.

Debora also gained valuable assistance from social worker Ann Sullivan, who provided her with a variety of helpful tools. “Ann gave me different resources to use, books for my kids, meditation tapes, yoga tapes, and turned me onto a support group which was extremely helpful,” she says. “I was also able to discuss different issues with her as they came up.”

One of Debora’s favorite programs was the American Cancer Society’s Look Good, Feel Better program, which is offered at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center at Milford Regional. At the first session she was given a makeup kit and tips on how use cosmetics when undergoing treatment for breast cancer. “They give you a makeup kit because when you start chemo you have to throw away all of your old makeup because of bacteria,” Debora explains. “You get a two hour makeup class and free makeup. It’s a wonderful program.” In fact, Debora liked the program so much she became a certified instructor and has already conducted two at the cancer center that gave her life back.

Biweekly support groups were also an important part of her experience. “It was extremely helpful to talk to other women who were going through the same situation,” Debora recollects. “We talked about how to make a wig look normal, chemo effects and how to handle them, and other issues.” Debora is also appreciative of the nutritional counseling she received. The dietician she worked with gave her tips on relieving nausea and maintaining good nutrition during treatment.

Now cancer free, Debora reflects back on her journey. “When you get the news that you have breast cancer, it’s devastating,” she states. “But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing that there is all this support behind you; that you are being helped, being carried through the whole situation—all the support helped me stay positive and helped me get through it.”

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