Be Blessed

A routine self-exam leads to life-saving treatment for mother of two

Michelle Docherty found a lump in her breast during a self-exam. How could this be? Almost a year ago, Michelle’s mammogram was clear.

Things progressed quickly for the 47-year-old mother of two from Lake Orion.

Michelle called her OB/GYN on a Friday and saw her physician on Monday morning. A mammogram and biopsy occurred within days. On her kids’ first day of school, she got the call – breast cancer.

“My doctor told me it was curable,” Michelle recalled. “She said to remember that, even though I would be going through a lot of scary things. It was jarring to say the least. Right away I thought of both of my kids. I didn’t want to do anything that would distract them from school. I was also thinking of my husband. My life. I wanted to be here.”

“I just had an overall feeling that I was in fantastic hands.”

Michelle_Docherty_01The day after her diagnosis, Michelle and her husband met with Amy Kirby, MD, surgeon.  Michelle was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 2.

“As we were going over my plan, it felt like an out-of-body experience,” recalled Michelle. “I remember thinking I know that she’s talking to me, it just didn’t feel like I was there. I remember at one point in the conversation she told me that the plan was to get me to 95 years old. Something else will take me, not this cancer. I said, ‘I like that. I’ll do whatever I have to do.’”

After that day, Michelle felt like she was living in the “land of appointments.” Thankfully, her husband was able to manage them for her. Her care was guided by Sarah Riaz, MD, an oncologist at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland. Michelle had 16 treatments of chemotherapy over a 20-week period, surgery, and finally six weeks of radiation treatments to burn out any remaining cancer cells.

Her new diagnosis: no remaining cancer.

“I just had an overall feeling that I was in fantastic hands,” Michelle said.

“My physicians, Dr. Riaz and Dr. Kirby, were warm and caring. These are very knowledgeable women and I knew I was in capable hands. I knew if I did everything they told me to do, I would be okay. They were very patient with me and answered all of my questions.

“They played such a crucial role in giving me my life back. I could tell I mattered to them.”

On Michelle’s last day of radiation treatment, her radiation therapist gave her a blue rubber bracelet with the encryption, strength.  Her son wears it every day.  He says it’s his most prized possession.

“Thank you doesn’t seem like enough,” Michelle said. “I almost see my breast cancer as an unexpected blessing. So many amazing people became a part of my life. My gratefulness far outweighs the bad experiences. Sometimes the road to getting better isn’t very pretty, but I’m going to be okay. It was important for my kids to see that sometimes life is really hard but you can always face it and get through it.”

Since Michelle’s treatments ended, she has started making more time for herself. She pays closer attention to her health and she believes she has a better outlook on life.

If you would like to learn more about St. Joseph Mercy Oakland’s cancer programs, call 1-877-712-HOPE or visit stjoeshealth.org/cancercare-breast.

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