Ten years later, breast cancer survivor retells her story of a new life
“I eat right, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, do everything I can to stay healthy … and I still got cancer.” Flint resident Cory Pacheco initially speaks somewhat casually when sharing the story about her breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and next phase of her life.
A Hurley registered nurse for the past 30 years, Cory admits she lived a bit of an excessive life in her 20s and 30s when she worked double shifts, “partied” a lot, got little sleep, and definitely burned the candle at both ends.
However, she emphasizes, she always faithfully obtained her mammogram.
In 2007, the first time she neglected to schedule her mammogram promptly and delayed the appointment a few months, she began to worry when no one called her about the screening results. “My gut told me something was wrong so I called and was told I needed to come back and have the exam repeated. Now, I started getting nervous; I was losing weight, I didn’t have much of an appetite, I was tired all of the time, and my life felt chaotic.”
After the second mammogram and a biopsy, Cory’s OB/GYN called her to deliver the news. “He was having a hard time telling me the results were positive.” Her casual tone suddenly changes to complete seriousness.
“I do everything right. I have a relative who is just about my age; she smokes, has high blood pressure, doesn’t exercise, makes unhealthy food choices, and her biopsy was clear. We both expected her biopsy to be positive, not mine. This just didn’t make sense.”
When Cory told her mom the news, “I could hear the air coming right out of her. She just about collapsed, and began asking God if she could trade places with me. That just about killed me … I think that was the hardest part of my ordeal.” Cory takes off her glasses and rubs the tears out of her eyes.
“I had three doctors lined up to see,” Cory says. Her mom encouraged her to see a different physician – Linsey Gold, DO, FACOS, FACS, a fellowship trained breast surgeon who works exclusively with breast cancer patients. “My mom says she is the one; she only sees patients with breast cancer.”
After seeing one of the doctors on her list who “told me what I had to do,” Cory notes with dissatisfaction, Cory scheduled an appointment with Dr. Gold. A few days later, Dr. Gold’s office called to change the time to the last appointment of the day because she wanted to spend more time with Cory. The office visit lasted three hours, and Dr. Gold provided options, not demands.
“I didn’t seek any more opinions after my visit with Dr. Gold. I knew I found the right doctor, someone who really cared about me, and someone with the skills I was hoping to find.”
“I felt like I was talking with a friend,” Cory notes. “Dr. Gold wanted to know my fears, she suggested I see two or three other doctors for a second opinion, and she even encouraged it. I don’t see that very often with physicians.” Dr. Gold discussed all of Cory’s options in detail; after surgery, she recommended radiation therapy, “but I didn’t want radiation or chemotherapy,” Cory says with conviction.
Dr. Gold strongly encouraged Cory to take some time off work before and after her surgery. “It was great advice. I did a lot of reading, I watched a lot of movies, I took long walks in the woods with my dog, and I enjoyed time with my friends. It was exactly what I needed to help me through this life-changing event.”
After her surgery while she was in the recovery room, Dr. Gold brought Cory a gift basket filled with all kinds of goodies “to pamper me and help me through this process,” Cory says. “That’s the kind of doctor she is – always thinking of her patients.”
When she had her last appointment with Dr. Gold, “saying goodbye was really difficult; she was my safety net, she helped me through one of the most difficult times of my life.”
“She gets it. That’s what makes her different. I wasn’t just her 3 o’clock appointment; she put herself in my shoes … and she’s always looking for ways to be a better doctor for her patients. Her brain never seems to shut off.”
“Ten years ago, I was just going through the motions of life. Now I know when the trees are budding, I look at the sky and moon more; I wonder if someone on the other side of the world is seeing what I am seeing. I listen more closely to what others are saying. And, as a nurse, I see my patients differently. I feel like I understand them better. I work harder to provide them with more comfort. My experience has made me a better nurse, and a better person.
“I pray that doctors like Dr. Gold never lose their compassion for their patients. She’s in it for all of the right reasons; she told me she hopes one day she will be out of a job because a cure for cancer has been found. Patients need and deserve a doctor as wonderful as she is.
“I am so grateful to my mom for finding Dr. Gold. There is no one else like her.”
And 10 years later, Cory remains cancer free.