Survivor of the Week: “The longest needle I ever saw went in, and in minutes I heard….OMG”
Here is a look at Gail Nuzzi, survivor, nurse, and one of our models this year!
I have been a registered nurse for about 30 years or so. I have a B.A. In Child Growth and Development, and minor in Communication from Stonehill College. I have a B.S.N. in Nursing science from R.I.C. and have done some post-graduate work as well. I love education and have always felt that knowledge is power. My longest area of practice has been in CCU and telemetry. For the last 4 years or so I have had one of the best jobs in the land. I work at Faulkner Hospital in the Center for Peri-Operative Evaluation. The job is complicated, diverse and allows for autonomy and use of a multiple of interpersonal skills. Besides, I get to work with a great group of professionals (nurses, anesthesiologist and surgeons). In October, I had the privilege of going on a Urology Medical Mission Project to Valladolid, an indigent area in the Yucatan, with some of the wonderful people that I have described above. I am very excited to have this experience and adventure to look forward to!
I have been married 22 years to David Milowe. David is a wealth manager/ financial advisor for RBC Wealth Management. He is Sr. V.P./Director of the Wellesley Office. He is equally as passionate and in love with his career of choice. David supports me in everything i do, and that is not an easy job. So far he is great at it!! We have 2 daughters. Adrienne is 20 and jacqueline is 17. They are as beautiful as they are lovely, and they challenge me on a daily basis. I could not have picked better!!
When were you first diagnosed with breast cancer? How did it make you feel?
I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2010. I awoke in the middle of the night as if I had been held under water for 5 minutes. At the time, I had been sleeping on my stomach with my arms criss-crossed in front of my chest with my hands under the opposite arm pit ( it was cold I imagine). I woke up my husband and said ” I have breast cancer “. He was pretty much thinking I was having a bad dream, which I’d been known to do since my kidney cancer/ radical nephrectomy in 2006. I called my PCP, saw her , and was examined. She declared it was a cyst and that I could , if I wanted to, get an ultrasound. At that time my family was getting ready to leave for vacation to Mexico, so I swiftly and temporarily was distracted.
While away I kept having premonitions…you have breast cancer is what the little voice kept saying! I’m grateful to have the gift of the voice, however why does it not tell me the winning lottery ticket numbers I have often wondered!! After my vacation I was troubled and I mentioned it to a co-worker (Phyllis Garr). She propelled me forward, stopping at nothing, she made phone calls and demanded that the breast center see a fellow nurse and warrior immediately!! And that is where I spent my lunch break that day. Again, initially I was told after my mammogram that it was likely a cyst by the radiologist, after all I was just there for a mammogram 3 1/2 months earlier, which was o.k.. She said we can do an ultrasound if you would like but it appears to be a cyst. I wanted an ultrasound like another hole in my head but I still felt I was right. After the ultrasound I felt kind of panicked, maybe it was because I didn’t eat (low blood sugar) or maybe it was because I knew, in an unexplainable way that I was about to have my life changed again , forever. The radiologist offered to extract the cyst, and of course I said…I’m not leaving until you do just that and send it off for a biopsy. She was a little annoyed, and I, a little embarrassed at my insistence when 2 doctors had already told me it was a cyst. I was on the table visible shaking and starting to hyperventilate, tears rolling down my face as I prepared for this procedure. I knew that it was only a matter of minutes and I would have my answer. The longest needle I ever saw went in, and in minutes I heard….OMG, I can’t get any fluid out of here! This is NOT a cyst, this is solid! I can’t believe this and I’m SO sorry she said. There was no looking me in the eyes after that. I wailed like a baby. I was pissed off at the world!!
Where did you receive treatment? Who was your doctor? What kind of treatment?
I received treatment at the Faulkner Hospital. Dr. Margaret Lawler was my surgeon. She was terrific. I took the opportunity to learn all I could very quickly about breast cancer and she assisted with that and respected me for my knowledge. Now the shoe was on the other foot, sort of speak, because I usually took care of her breast cancer patients, and now I was one!
Chemotherapy was done on the fifth floor at Faulkner Hospital , which was run by the Dana Farber. Dr. Dan Morgenstern was at the helm!
Radiation was done at Dana Farber in Boston as well. A great, great group of people. I took the shuttle over every day for 6.5 weeks before work with my co-workers’ husband. I looked forward to seeing him, we would chat and he made it fun! I made lots of friends and ended up holding discussion on many an occasion. I got people talking. It helped them, but what they didn’t know was that they helped me more!
How did you cope with the breast cancer diagnosis?
My family at home (immediate and extended), and my peers at work were amazing to me. My friends, what can I say.. were so great. My rabbi and temple family too. I coped by getting in to shape. I was jogging a bit, walking and biking a lot. I knew I had to get into great shape for the fight ahead. I also spent lots of time by- the-sea, at a house we share, on Old Silver Beach! Special times there are imbedded in my mind for the rest of time.
How did you cope with the treatment side effects? Pharmacological and/or non-pharmacological? Herbal remedies? Spirituality?
I tried not to let most people see how miserable it was. There were some that I let into that world, but I tried to shield my children. I leaned on some family and friends for sure. I did drugs, I smoked pot and I dragged myself out onto the deck over looking the ocean. I prayed and I pleaded. A lot! I counted my blessings and miracles daily!
Are there any events or charities you take part in?
I am on the board of Pink Rose Foundation, a charity that gives scholarships to children that have lost a parent to breast cancer. I am also on the board of Interfaith Action Group in Sharon. I am a member of a temple inSharon. I am taking a year off from the Boston Marathon Jimmy fund walk that I have done for the last 3 years. Also, before chemo I sent off 11inches of my hair to locks Of Love, a group that makes wigs for children going through cancer treatment.
Hang in there, 1 day at a time, count your blessings. Positive, positive thoughts!! Fight hard, and learn as much as you can about what you have. Your own mind, is your best medicine…thoughts become reality!