The 39-year-old mother of two heard the main speaker, Dr. Chloe Bird, repeatedly urge the mostly female audience to pay attention if they felt tightness above their bellybuttons and below their chins. Crane, a lifelong Palisadian, took note, but didn’t think it would happen to her.
That night it did.
“It sort of felt like a fat man was sitting on my chest,” Crane said. “So what did I do? Initially, I just ignored it.”
The timing wasn’t good. Her husband, Bryan, was out of town, it was raining, and she had chores to do like putting her two daughters to bed. In order to go to the emergency room, she’d have to get assistance, including someone to stay with her kids, Carly, 8, and Caroline, 6.
However, Bird had insisted that women in particular need to put their health first, and when Crane paused and listened to her body, she felt an “uh-oh feeling.”
She had some other issues that had seemed minor: a persistent cough and fatigue plus a small bump on her right clavicle that her doctor had thought was just a swollen lymph node due to a cold. However, when Crane checked in with herself, she felt concerned.
“Something wasn’t quite right, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about Dr. Bird’s advice: I matter. I deserve to slow down, listen to my body and take action if necessary,” Crane said.
It was lucky that she listened. When she and her mother-in-law Janie Crane got to St. John’s Hospital, she learned after a battery of tests that she had fluid around her heart and a mass in her chest. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a rare blood cancer that accounts for .5 percent of cancers, had struck her.
However, Crane caught it in time, beat it with 12 rounds of chemotherapy in a six-month treatment plan, and this year on May 11, was the main speaker at the Irene Dunne Guild’s Think Pink event at the Bel-Air Bay Club.
Instead of a doctor offering advice, Crane was able to provide information from the patient’s point of view to the almost 250 attendees who came to learn more about women’s health care.
Her top ten “take-aways” from this life-changing experience were:
1.) Make the first 48 hours after the diagnosis count. In her case, she and her loved ones channeled their intense emotions into research and calls that created a manageable path for her treatment.
2.) Talk to people who have been through something similar.
3.) Get multiple opinions. Crane resisted this at first as she immediately liked the hospital’s oncologist. But then she got a second opinion and a third. The third time was a charm. Dr. Lawrence Piro’s treatment plan, which included an ABVD chemo regime that he helped invent, was the perfect match for her and created a less intense path that didn’t require radiation.
4.) Be willing to say yes when people offer advice and help, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. For Crane, this meant she accepted private yoga lessons from a mom she’d never met and made new friends who aided her.
5.) Give people specific tasks/jobs—they want to help so let them. A friend took over her emails, and another coordinated meals for her. Others regularly accompanied her to chemo treatments.
6.) Write a blog or journal—or find some other way to communicate simply with people, so that the task of notifying people of treatment progress is easier.
7.) Take control in your own way, and don’t let the disease control you. For Crane, this meant she chose to shave her head whether she would end up needing it or not.
8.) Have an open mind—Crane chose to try jin shin jytsu, a helpful acupressure treatment for the pain and nausea of chemo.
9.) Have faith in a higher power. Crane said she “chose faith over fear.”
And finally, “number 10,” Crane said, “which I learned last year, right here in this room from Dr. Bird, and it probably saved my life: ‘Listen to your body.’”
By LAUREL BUSBY
Brooke Crane Photo: Glenn Marzano
Click here to link to original article in Palisades News