By Muriel J. Smith
Editor’s note: This article is the first in an exclusive series of Muriel’s inspiring and hopeful message after dealing with breast cancer
It’s quite a story. Full of coincidences, a new invention, a forward thinking radiologist, a medical center that has the integrity and strength to offer its patients an economical and painless alternative to surgery, a private physician who suggests, explains, and urges a woman to review all options, a surgical oncologist who explains everything in simple detail then encourages a patient to make her own decisions, an international meeting, a team of young, bright, intelligent Israelis who are on the cutting edge of tomorrow’s cancer cures. And me. I’m part of that story!
And it all started with a special sales offer for a body massage at Hand and Stone on Route 33 in Howell. That’s the embarrassing part.
At 79 years of age, a widow of nearly ten years, mother of four, grandmother of nine scattered around the country and great grandmother of six, I had not had a mammography in four years. It was my decision that I did not need them anymore. After all, I had survived the death of my husband ten years previous after a wonderful 51 year marriage, the death of my oldest daughter three years ago, and a serious stroke two years ago. I had been fortunate enough then to get swift medical resolution for the stroke, was diligent in all the physical therapy required, and followed it up with a new physical health regimen at Centra State Medical Center’s Health and Fitness Center. My three times a week regimen there with trainer Jeanine Palmieri made me fit and healthy enough to continue living a wonderful, active life. Life is pretty terrific.
And that was my feeling in early December, 2015, when I read one of numerous flyers Centra State routinely sends out to the folks involved in any of their programs. Coincidence number one. I rarely read their ads, but this one was different. I was attracted by the big print for $50 off a massage or facial at a leading spa if I had a mammography at Centra State. What a deal, I decided! A cheap luxury hour or so just for letting my insurance pick up the tab for a test I really should have been having more regularly.
The swiftness and ease of making an appointment, the luxury of heated terry cloth robes and caring hospital staff for the procedure, the skill and care of the technologist who did the mammography all made the squeeze worthwhile, a very small part taken out of one of my busy days. I wasn’t even concerned when I got the call the next day to please stop back at the hospital for another look; the radiologist may have seen something he wanted to investigate further. A follow-up ultra sound showed that little thing they thought they saw really was there. Next step. A biopsy to see if it was cancer.
My primary care doctor is the one who strongly suggested I meet with Dr. Mary Martucci, breast surgical oncologist and medical director of the Star and Barry Tobias Women’s Health Center.….have I said what a wonderful place that is? Meeting Dr. Martucci explains why. Tall, elegant, loaded with both experience and a strong medical and surgical background, Dr. Martucci is also soft, gentle, warm and caring. She actually likes her patients and shows it in every word and action.
So gentle and caring she is, in spite of her efficiency and obvious professionalism, I was beginning to feel sorry for her. Don’t worry, I advised; things are happening pretty strangely; there are too many coincidences, so there must be a reason. I ticked off the coincidences….I have only lived in Freehold for nine years and had never been a patient at Centra State; I recovered beautifully from a stroke because of fast action in another hospital and follow up physical therapy at Centra State’s Health and Fitness Center; without that, I would never have gotten the ad which changed by mind from never having another mammogram to scheduling one, admittedly only to get the discount on a massage. I’m a writer by profession and a strong believer in the fact that nothing happens by coincidence. Ergo! The only news I would get from a biopsy is that I had breast cancer and there was a very definite reason for it. Don’t fret over having me come in for an appointment to give me the news, I assured Dr Martucci; just give me a call on the phone when the results of the biopsy come in.
Muriel J. Smith is a 55 year Monmouth County resident. A Freehold resident for the pasted 10 years, Muriel lived in Highlands for 40 years and spent 10 years traveling the country in a RV with her beloved husband Jimmy. She is an award winning reporter and was an editor of Forbes Magazine and The Courier. Widowed for the last 10 years, Muriel is the mother of four (one daughter deceased) a grandmother of 9 and great-grandmother of 6.