Survivor Stories: Dee Dee Ricks
How did you first find out you had cancer?
I was moving to a temporary home while my house was under construction. I couldn’t find a bra. While driving braless, my left breast began to hurt. I felt around and there was a lump. I had just seen my gynecologist two months prior. She missed it.
How did you react when you heard the news?
I panicked. I was single, 38, with two boys ages two and five. I was afraid I was going to die and they wouldn’t remember me. I began filming moments together with the three of us immediately.
What course of treatment were you prescribed?
ACT-Herceptin and Tamoxifen.
What most surprised you about your treatment?
How manageable it was. I could not only get through the day, I was actually able to do everything just after two weeks of my double mastectomy that I did prior to diagnosis, sometimes just a little slower.
What would be your advice to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
This is the worst part. It takes some time to find out how advanced it is. The waiting is excruciating.
How long have you been cancer free?
Five years. Four months two days, six hours.
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
Every moment is precious. Despite the stress, show as much love and compassion as possible to your kids. Hide the pain, they pick up on more than we think. Also, find someone diagnosed with breast cancer that doesn’t have the resources that you do. Drive them to their doctor visits, babysit their children, buy them a gift certificate at a grocery store. Anything to make their treatment more tolerable. Whatever income bracket you are in, there is always someone else with a worse situation than you. Giving back brings peace.
If you could send one message to all Good Enough Mothers out there, what would it be?
Despite the 40 year rule on mammograms, screen screen screen at least through self exams earlier. Six months undiagnosed can literally mean the difference between life or death.
Dee Dee Ricks is an advocate and expert on patient navigation and philanthropist who supports many charities. She is chairman of the board of the Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute (PNI), which supports patient navigation training and aims to provide information about chronic disease prevention and eliminate barriers to timely diagnosis, prevention and care. Her breast cancer journey was chronicled in The Education of Dee Dee Ricks on HBO. The DVD is being sold for $19.99 on the site and will be available on iTunes later this month.
As part of her philanthropic efforts, Dee Dee is active with the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention, the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas Medical Center and Harvard University’s Global Task force on Expanded Access to Cancer Care & Control in Developing Countries. Dee Dee is a Breast Reconstruction Awareness Ambassador for BRA Day USA, an initiative designed to promote education, awareness and access regarding post-mastectomy breast. Dee Dee is the founder of RICKS Consulting Group, Inc., which serves and advises hedge funds.
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