In 2009 actor Maura Tierney was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. She opted to have a skin-sparing mastectomy; and because the cancer was found to be more aggressive than her doctors had originally believed, the surgery was followed by three months of chemotherapy. Now three years past successfully completing treatment, Maura has become a spokesperson for the Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts campaign to share her own experience with cancer and to encourage patients to speak openly with their doctors to fully understand their treatment.
What were the most challenging aspects of your treatment?
Looking back at my experience, one of the main challenges I faced was that I just didn’t know what to expect from the chemotherapy my doctors told me I needed. I worried that I would be so sick I wouldn’t be able to get up or even leave the house. Fortunately, this turned out to be untrue for me.
This is partly why I teamed up with Amgen on Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts. The campaign aims to debunk some of the common myths associated with chemotherapy and encourages patients to take charge of their cancer journey by speaking with their doctors and asking as many questions as possible. Although it can be an overwhelming time, I think talking to your doctor about how chemotherapy may affect you and your daily life will help you maintain a sense of normalcy throughout the process.
Where did you seek support during treatment?
From the start I was lucky in that I had an excellent team of doctors and was able to surround myself with friends and family who were very supportive and helpful throughout the entire process.
Did your diagnosis and subsequent treatment change your perspective or teach you any lessons that remain with you today?
It’s important to get the facts early on, and I learned that you can never ask your doctor a stupid question. I asked every single question that came to mind, and I believe this helped calm my anxiety. If anything was bothering me, I would ask my doctors—even after I finished treatment.
Until recently, you have been fairly reserved in speaking about your experience with cancer. What inspired you to begin speaking publicly?
I was very nervous when I learned that I would need chemotherapy, and I wish I had known more about it before I started treatment. The Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts campaign really speaks to my own personal experiences and hopefully will encourage others to talk with doctors to get the right information and understand what their treatment might entail.
How do you believe this campaign will help other women facing cancer treatment?
I hope Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts will help other women feel confident about talking to their doctors when they have questions. I believe having all the facts can really ease the process mentally and emotionally. As part of the campaign, an interactive video booth has been traveling across the county, collecting hundreds of personal stories from those who have been touched by cancer. The hope is that the sharing of these experiences will help those who are about to embark on their own cancer journeys.
What advice would you offer other recently diagnosed women regarding coping with the physical and emotional impacts of a cancer diagnosis?
Ask questions and be sure to take the time you need to understand your treatment. Always speak with your doctors and check out chemomythsorfacts.com for additional information.