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Mindy Sue Cohen: Fighting Cancer with Colleagues

"It was incredibly helpful to have female managers to confide in. My co-workers were understanding and accommodating with my treatments."

Mindy Sue Cohen
Breast Cancer

Mindy Sue Cohen first faced HER-2 positive breast cancer in 2009. As she was finishing treatment in 2015, Mindy Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer again four months shy of her remission date.

Timing was everything. She was starting a new job as a program specialist for the State of Texas General Land Office just as she was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. While she worked full-time during treatment of both cancers, it was the workplace experience in this new environment that really struck a chord.

When Mindy Sue was first diagnosed in 2009, her treatments had included chemotherapy and a lumpectomy. However, the second time around proved to be more challenging and intense. Under Dr. Debra Patt’s care at Texas Oncology–Austin Central, she received a second lumpectomy, a mastectomy, another round of chemotherapy, and 38 radiation treatments.

Finding Comfort and Support

With her friends spread across the country, Mindy Sue leaned on her “work network” to keep going. Facing the intensity of treatment all while learning a new job was a personal challenge, but it was made easier with the comfort and support she found in her new colleagues.

“It was incredibly helpful to have female managers to confide in,” says Mindy Sue. “My co-workers were understanding and accommodating with my treatments.” This included the mastectomy that required her to take off work for an extended period of time.

But they didn’t stop there. Mindy Sue says her co-workers fully supported her from serving up homemade chicken noodle soup to sitting beside her in the infusion room. Her work family even used their own sick days to spend time with her, making sure she was able to get to her surgeries. When gastrointestinal problems arose as a result of chemotherapy treatments, her supervisors allowed her to work from home.

"Mindy Sue is lucky to have a team of colleagues who support her through this journey,” says Dr. Patt. “All patients need a team behind them. Having a team to keep patients in the workforce, when possible, is so helpful to a good outcome with greater patient satisfaction and less economic risk to the patients and their employers."

Work-Life Balance

For cancer patients who are able to work during treatment, keeping a steady job can help maintain a sense of normalcy and stability. Mindy Sue found value in continuing her job. “I needed to be able to focus on something other than cancer and to maintain social interaction,” she says. “I definitely didn’t want to sit at home.”

Mindy Sue says she learned a valuable lesson from this experience – the importance of balancing the support of those around her with the need for alone time. For any cancer patient, the physical and emotional toll can be taxing, and it was important for her to be able to take a break by spending time alone to clear her mind.

Sharing the hardship means a lighter load. In the end, Mindy Sue is especially grateful for the colleagues who became family through her journey. She’s now getting back into her groove, taking on business trips, and spending more time swimming. Best of all, she’s got her colleagues cheering her on both in and out of the office.

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.