Adeline Zerkel: Breast Cancer

Adeline Zerkel: Breast Cancer
In the weirdest, strangest way, it's a very special experience... Sometimes all we need is someone to listen to us.

In September 2022, Adeline and Arnie exchanged vows, promising each other a lifetime of love and companionship. Little did the newlyweds know, their journey through life together would soon take an unexpected turn.

On a seemingly ordinary day, 32-year-old Adeline was blissfully unaware of the storm brewing within her body. She recalled, “I had ordered new shirts online and as I was trying them on, I was feeling the fabric and I thought, Oh my gosh this is so soft. But then my thumb kept hitting a large lump in my breast and I was like wow that doesn't feel normal.”

As she had throughout her life, Adeline reached out to her mom, who comforted her saying, “I'm sure it's not a big deal but you should still go have it checked out.”

Adeline followed her mom’s advice, she recalls, “My gynecologist ordered a mammogram and in just a few day everything went boom.” Adeline paused, “I felt totally fine, normal, and found out I had stage 3 breast cancer.”

On April 20, 2023, Adeline's survivor journey officially began, marked by a diagnosis that would forever alter the course of her life. A bilateral mastectomy on May 23rd was followed by four months of chemotherapy, a journey fraught with physical and emotional challenges.

Yet, amidst the chaos and uncertainty, Adeline and Arnie found solace in the friendships and support of their team at Northwest Cancer Centers. “Walking in the front door, I see Sandy & Deb, then I go in the back with Stacy, Angela, Jessica, Heather or Brittany, to get blood drawn. I’d go to the infusion room and my nurse from the start was Megan. She was wonderful, and so were Carolyn, Lindsey, Chelsea, and everyone else. Christine at the checkout desk was an angel. I just quickly became attached to everybody. I wasn't a patient; I was a friend.”

Adeline continued, “I love coming here. It's so strange to say that I love going to the cancer treatment facility, but I do. I love the people there. My relationship with Melissa, my Nurse Practitioner, is special. I can ask her things in total confidence. I know that I'm going to get an honest answer from her. I never thought I’d openly say the things to a medical professional that I’ve said to her, but we talk like we're friends. AND I’m still getting all the information I need.”

As Adeline navigated the ups and downs of treatment, she found strength in the bonds forged with fellow patients at Northwest Cancer Centers. "I didn’t have much success with online support groups," Adeline admitted. "But here, I found my forever friends, fellow patients who understood what I was going through."

Arnie found comfort in the connections made with other caregivers and loved ones. “One of the biggest things that helped Adeline and me was being able to meet other people that were also going through the journey around the same time…Adeline was sharing her story on social media because she wanted to provide more awareness. As she was doing that, people would reach out to me and there were words of encouragement for me from a spouse. One older gentleman who I was friends with on social media, let me know that his wife had gone through stage 4 cancer and told me ‘There's not always a lot of support for family members or a spouse. I'll never be mad if you call me , but I may be mad if you need me but don’t call.’ So it was people like that that helped more than you’d know”

As Adeline's treatment journey neared its end, she and Arnie emerged stronger. "The entire journey brought us closer together. There is a bond that you develop. It can feel really negative at times, it's not all positive. But in the end, I think this created a bond like we didn’t have before. Maybe that’s the silver lining”.

In the face of adversity, they found hope, strength, and a community of support that carried them through the darkest of days. Adeline fought off tears as she reflected, “I love Dr. Kassar…I can't say enough about him. My first time meeting him, he made all of us feel so comfortable. He was just so caring and I remember him telling me and reassuring me ‘Adeline, you are going to be OK’. He’s so sweet, he cares about his patients, he takes time, he listens. We never left with any unanswered questions. I was always happy when I left. I never felt rushed.”

As they look back on their journey, Adeline's words ring true: "In the weirdest, strangest way, it's a very special experience... Sometimes all we need is someone to listen to us and that's what we got."

Together, they navigated down an unexpected and scary road, but emerged stronger, braver, and closer than ever before.