Susan Welty

One from the Heart

A diagnosis of breast cancer can be devastating, actually, any kind of cancer for that matter. What could be worse? Fear of the unknown, ignorance of procedures, lack of knowledge regarding test results, and a host of other things in which many women are not schooled.  Susan Welty shows us the value of a very special kind of education-education for self-preservation!

Pink:  How were you affected by your original diagnosis?
Welty: I was overwhelmed, confused, and terrified. I wanted the cancer out of me immediately. That was my first mistake. I settled for the wrong Doctor in haste and fear. Right away I begin to feel like nothing but a number in his system with all of my questions left unanswered. As I learned more on my own, I immediately changed my care to Dr. Virginia Herrmann.

P:   What was the most important thing she did for you?
W: She taught me to be my own advocate! If you are unsure that everything possible is being done, get second or even third opinions. Do more testing and learn for yourself so that you can make educated choices. She showed me where to get information. She spent hours with me explaining cancer, drawing diagrams, explaining charts, and most importantly, answering questions. She gave me extensive reading material, Web site information, and support group advice. I now attend two groups, one run by the American Cancer Society, and one run through the MUSC Breast Center at Hilton Head Regional. I go to the Komen message boards online and listen to health advocacy programs. I also read Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book (Da Capo Press) from cover to cover.  In addition, I thoroughly read everything the doctor gave me in detail.  I wonder how many patients actually do that?

P: Why did you feel it was so important to educate yourself as to health care?
W: Well, to be honest, no one else was going to do it for me. My husband was confused, my sisters were not informed, my friends were supportive and sympathetic, but as unaware as I was, and besides, no one knew my body better than I did. I had to educate my self! After my surgeries the time came for reconstructive surgeries. Again, I made a study of the process and used all of the available educational tools I could find. When I went back to my doctor, I didn't have all of the answers, of course, but I sure knew the right questions to ask, and I knew the follow-up questions too!

P: How are you sharing all of the things you have learned?
W: Good question. Teaching is as important as learning. I want to make the cancer journey easier for those who follow me. I meet with women who need to talk, and comfort and help them to find the tools they need to educate themselves. Women under "current care" need to see and speak to survivors, and there are lots of us! Knowing that others have gone before you and come out of treatment to lead fulfilling lives is what a patient needs to see.
Cancer is a terrifying experience and I take great comfort in knowing that I can possibly help someone else. I volunteer at the MUSC Breast Center, and work with "Hope and Healing", the Breast Center's support group. I am currently working on a project organizing all of the educational materials available at the Breast Center into a concise packet. The Breast Center hopes to begin working on a mentoring program too. You can bet I will be there.
P: Any special advice for those who have been recently diagnosed with breast (or any type) cancer?
W: Yes, You have rights and responsibilities for your own health. No one knows your body like YOU do.

It's a good thing God gave us the ability to never stop learning because throughout our lives, we face many opportunities, as well as trials, where educating ourselves is imperative.  For Susan Welty, education has been vital to her own well-being and ultimately helped lead her to her cure. Now the teaching and sharing of her knowledge has become vital to other women on a similar journey. At some level, we are all sisters, and need to help each other by sharing our wisdom and experiences. The old adage surely rings true here: Knowledge is power.pass it on!