BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — If you or someone close to you has experienced breast cancer, chances are good you know Dr. Ravi Patel of the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center in Bakersfield.
Dr. Patel, as any cancer survivor can tell you, is a man with answers. But he doesn’t have every answer. Sometimes it takes someone who has personally battled breast cancer and dealt with its physical and emotional consequences to address certain questions — including the most personal.
Two local breast cancer survivors, Stacey Shepard and Diane Nelson, have accepted that challenge.
Every year, 300 Kern County residents, the vast majority of them women, are diagnosed with breast cancer — and a great number of them turn to the Comprehensive Blood & Cancer Center.
Patel can tell patients much of what to expect from the physical, medical perspective. But what about self-esteem? What about talking to one’s children? What about sex? Those are important questions — real questions — especially for younger and middle aged breast cancer patients.
That’s what Shepard thought. The Bakersfield Californian reporter was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2018 — and her long and at times tortuous journey toward healing brought her face to face with questions even Patel couldn’t always fully answer.
So she decided to answer those questions herself. She and Nelson are hosting a Q-and-A session on all things breast cancer at 5:30 p.m. this Tuesday in the main front lobby at CBCC — with appropriate, socially distanced seating — and live-streamed on the CBCC’s Facebook page. To register for private Facebook participation, visit CBCC’s Facebook; to attend in person, register by calling (661) 855-5665. You may also phone in with advance questions, bearing in mind that the title of the seminar is “Ask Us Anything.”
“Even though you have the support of your family and the people that are closest to you,” Shepard said, “I think there’s still a sense of, ‘Gosh, it would be nice to know how other people will handle this,’ or, ‘Am I the only one going through this?'”
Shepard’s sister in recovery, Nelson, is a Bakersfield pharmaceutical rep. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2018 and endured 16 rounds of chemotherapy.
She also, all too well, understands the sense of vulnerability and uncertainty that a cancer diagnosis, and the recovery process, can bring.
“There’s all of that that happens afterward,” she said. “And that’s what we’re trying to bring people together to discuss. Because it’s a lot. It’s a lot. It’s heavy. … It’s heavy.”
Patel acknowledges these are messages best delivered by the women who lived through it.
“They have a tremendous amount of responsibilities they have to deal with,” he said of middle-aged (and younger) women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. “Children, taking them to school, household affairs, their work, a variety of things and a variety of personal issues — your sex life or, you know, emotions.”
Just Ask Us, as they’re calling the seminar, could be the first in a series of Q-and-A sessions.
With new 300 new breast cancer cases a year in Kern County and an ever growing community of survivors, the need is clear.