Overcoming a health challenge: breast cancer
One morning in late 2011, Melinda Bond, customer service representative in Children's Hospital Colorado's lab, was getting dressed when her thumb fell across a lump next to her ribs.
"I palpated the area, saying, 'Please hurt, please hurt' because that’s generally a sign that it’s a cyst or infection," Bond remembers. She had worked in hematology/oncology in a previous job, and knew well the signs and symptoms of cancer.
As feared, on January 18, 2012, Bond received the call that she did, in fact, have Stage I breast cancer.
Her prognosis was good, and she had several options, but ultimately, she decided to have a double mastectomy, given the recurrence rate and the fact that she didn’t want to undergo radiation (its side effects are more significant for younger populations, so if an additional health issue arose later in life, radiation wouldn’t be an option, as Bond would have used her lifetime limit.).
Bond later found out that her cells were already changing in her healthy breast and it’s likely she would have had a reoccurrence.
Despite the positive prognosis and refusal to believe she would die, Bond felt overwhelmed. It didn’t help that recovery from the first surgery took twice as long as expected. She also underwent two more surgeries as part of reconstruction.
"You’re so busy focused on appointments and surgeries, that becomes your life," Bond says. “When things finally start to slow down, you ask, 'What just happened?' You finally start processing things. I don’t think people acknowledge the emotional aftereffects enough. Most people want to help yet just don’t understand how to deal with that."
Bond found it difficult to connect with those who were trying to help her. In retrospect, Bond wishes she had communicated with others about the kind of support she needed.
"It’s very important to learn communication skills to tell people, 'This is what support looks like for me. This is how you can help me be successful.'" Bond explains.
Finding strength and support
Having no family in Colorado, Bond did find strength in her friends who sang to her in her hospital room, welcomed her in their homes, helped her move, delivered meals and drove her to her doctor appointments.
"I'm extremely blessed," she says. "I wanted for nothing."
These days Bond exudes calm positivity, but it took her time and self-reflection to get here. She started meditating and exercising, and also got a dog who kept her active. Bond has found emotional and spiritual health in the act of constantly challenging herself, like volunteering in her free time and eating healthier than ever before.
"Working at Children’s Colorado, I’m grateful for my health," Bond says. "No matter what I'm going through there's always someone else going through challenges far more worse than mine. I do my best to show gratitude daily for what I have."
As an advocate for a greater focus on emotional and spiritual health, Bond joined the employee wellness committee.
"I feel like I can support others," Bond says. "It's nice to be able to have a conversation and be able to say, “I know exactly what you’re talking about and can relate to how you feel."
"My goal is just to provide hope, to be an inspiration to others, and for others to feel they can reach out to me. I believe people just really need to talk and to have someone listen without judgment."
Bond welcomes any employee who may need to talk about a health challenge, especially cancer. Reach her via email or by calling ext. 7-3760.