Battling Bruin: Suzi

Posted May 2014

Her first thought was…it’s going to be nothing. It was June of 2013 when she got a call saying her mammogram showed some abnormalities. Suzi, an emergency room nurse, did not want to accept it. Her summer was already planned out: Hawaii, 25th anniversary party, a few cabin trips and parties at the house when all the kids visit from college.

Cancer wasn’t in the plans. The only cancer in her plans was supporting others in a 60-mile breast cancer walk which she accomplished. Suzi was on her way to Hawaii with her husband and friends when the hospital wanted her to come in prior to her leaving for vacation. Suzi, a.k.a. “The Queen,” said cancer can wait, my vacation can’t and off they went on a vacation that was one to remember; Mai Tai’s, beaches and a ton of sun and fun.

When Suzi returned, she went to the hospital to have a battery of tests and a biopsy done. The results revealed that she had stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma with micinous features, a type of breast cancer. Nasty words, scary words, the worst words any woman (and husband) would want to hear. How could a woman who made her living saving other people’s lives be potentially fighting for her own? With her husband by her side, Suzi met with four doctors: an oncologist, a radiologist, a surgeon and another facilitating doctor.

Suzi and her husband, Steve, alongside doctors decided a plan of attack. In early August, right after their 25th anniversary party, she had a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy based on her results from the breast tissue samples. The mastectomy was hard, but nothing as hard as chemotherapy, which started a few weeks after her mastectomy. Suzi wanted to make sure two things happened; first, she wanted to get back to work and second, she didn’t want her hair to fall out.

Suzi is the type of person that will not let anything, no matter the severity, get in her way. After only a few days of her mastectomy, she was trying to clean the house and go to the gym – the two things her doctor told her specifically not to do for two weeks!

Getting back to work was a bit of challenge. Healed from the mastectomy, Suzi was physically good to go, but wasn't quite sure what to expect mentally. As an emergency room nurse, there is something about helping sick people and the urge to help others won’t go away. She helps sick people, she’s not sick. Life keeps going and so does she because she doesn’t want to belong to “that pink club.” Suzi didn’t want people to know her as the “one” battling breast cancer and she didn’t want people to feel sorry for her. She never talked about it, she didn’t want people she knew to come up to her at the store and ask her how she was doing; she was doing fine.

It was not until her best friend/cousin, Dara, convinced her that it was okay to let people know. At this point, Suzi became more open with the idea of people caring for her. Anyone who knows “The Queen” knows what she is like. Very determined, very social and nothing is going to stand in her way, not even cancer. Why do you think everyone calls her “The Queen?”

Ready to go back to work and a normal routine meant going to work in the emergency room. Suzi’s doctors, co-workers and family got mad at her on a weekly basis about her decision to work while she was still going through chemotherapy, but she is an emergency room nurse and is not going to let the fact that she is sick adversely affect her patient care. She finally compromised with everyone and didn’t start working until she had at least two chemo sessions and would only work once or twice a week depending how she felt.

Unfortunately the hair went, just as the doctors said it would 17 days into her first chemotherapy session. As anyone (especially women) could imagine what it is like, having clumps of hair come out in your hand before going out to dinner was particularly hard. Thanks to her family (including a few Bruins), Suzi is getting through this horrible time in her life. Chemotherapy, as any surviving chemo patient will tell you, is a brutal assault on your body yet “The Queen” made all of her “appearances” during the holiday season and even planned a Christmas party for a clinic she works for part time. Her last chemotherapy was Dec. 30, 2013.

The reconstruction should begin in March or April sometime. Suzi will do exactly what she has been doing the entire time, kicking cancer in the butt! Even though it’s only been a year, this has been a very long journey – a journey she is going to get past with a very supportive family. Suzi will be taking chemo pills for the next five years to make sure nothing comes back.

Are you wondering how Suzi is tied to UCLA? She applied to UCLA and unfortunately was not admitted. But that has never stopped her from being a Bruin at heart. Now her son has friends who are Bruins and loves living her life vicariously through them. Suzi sports her UCLA shirts and sweatshirts all over her hometown in the middle of Cal Bears territory. You better believe it...as “The Queen” did with her cancer, she will fight to the very end defending her beloved Bruins.

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