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Gail Bochichio

No Longer a Death Sentence

Holy Name Cancer Patient stories - Gail Bochichio

She was in the operating room, waiting for surgery to remove a cancerous lump from her breast when her doctor gently rubbed her lower leg a couple of times through the sheet. It was such a small gesture, one of support and comfort, yet it made all the difference to Gail Bochichio.

"That touch – human touch – is just so important," Gail said. "I think it often gets lost and especially with COVID, it wasn't allowed. But it's those little things that mean so much and that one made me believe I was going to be okay."

Gail, 70 at the time, was having breast cancer surgery by Dr. Lynette Mendoza, a breast surgical oncologist at Holy Name Medical Center after the tumor was discovered through a routine mammogram. It was Dr. Mendoza who rubbed her leg and gave her some encouraging remarks about how Gail was going to come through the surgery well.

Gail believed Dr. Mendoza and developed a quiet acceptance of her disease as well as her good prognosis. Actually, she was surprised she had made it this long without developing breast cancer, considering her mother died from it at 67, one month after her diagnosis. Her mother hid her symptoms until it was too late, Gail said.

Gail learned from her mom's tragedy and was vigilant about getting her own screenings on a timely basis. As a result, her cancer was caught early, stage 1. Still, she needed surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, which she had at Holy Name.

"I've had two children, my gallbladder taken out and I left my ovaries at Holy Name," Gail said. "I'm so happy with the way they treat patients. Everyone is so pleasant and they let the patient guide them – if the patient wants to joke around, they do and if the patient is more quiet, they respect that also."

Humor played a huge role in getting Gail through her treatment. Wearing bright gold-colored Keds, she grabbed the attention of staff members, who joked with her during her chemotaherapy sessions. She told the pharmacist creating her chemo cocktail to make sure to use "top shelf ingredients, none of that cheaper stuff."

Dr. Mendoza detailed Gail's entire treatment plan for her and told her what to expect. As a former teacher, Gail believes educating the patient is very important and was grateful for Dr. Mendoza's advice and expertise.

One of the hurdles Dr. Mendoza told Gail she may face – a reaction to chemotherapy. She did but didn't realize what was happening.

"The first time I got my chemo treatment, all of a sudden my head felt so hot – like steam was rising in my head and coming out my ears," Gail said. "They give you a button to push if you feel uncomfortable but I couldn't even push the button. But they were right there and adjusted everything. They cater to each patient – it's almost like it's me time. Do I need a pillow, another blanket? If you have to go for cancer treatment, Holy Name is the place to be."

Now, three years after Gail finished treatment, she's still talking about the importance of timely screenings, especially for breast cancer. Though she's had some suspicious spots on her mammograms since her recovery, they all turned out to be benign.

"When I first found out I had cancer, I wasn't upset – I just accepted it," Gail said. "I figured I would do what the doctor told me to do. I believe cancer is so many different diseases and right now, so many people are living with breast cancer. It's not a death sentence like it was years ago."

Learn more about Gail's breast cancer treatment at Holy Name