By Patrick Martin
I’ll never forget our first appointment at Dana-Farber — less than 24 hours after my wife, Meghan, heard the harsh news that she had stage IV breast cancer. I can remember the shoes I wore, because I was staring down at them in the waiting room. I still have not worn those shoes.
Our case was a bit different than most, because Meghan was seven months pregnant with our third boy, Gavin. Cancer was so new to me that I didn’t know what our future would look like. But as I stared at my shoes, I knew we were not going to lie down for this. We were going to go out swinging.
When Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, and her team greeted us for that first appointment at Dana-Farber’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers, they were compassionate, and started to map out a plan. I pulled Dr. Partridge aside and said, “No offense, doctor, but I want my wife to be with the best.” And she said, “No offense, Mr. Martin, but you are with the best.”
Meghan started two months of chemotherapy, then induced labor to deliver our son Gavin. I was speechless when I first heard his baby cry. Ten toes, ten fingers; he was perfect.
Eventually, Meghan regained her strength. A few weeks later, she had two more months of chemotherapy, followed by a mastectomy, then six weeks of radiation.
But we were not out of the woods. A year later her cancer came back; this time, in her bones. Fortunately, we have access to clinical trials that have extended Meghan’s life.
Throughout this process, I have learned that young women with breast cancer have different needs than older women. Like my wife, they are often in the middle of major life changes involving careers, relationships, and children. Meghan received comprehensive care, support, and education tailored specifically for her as part of Dr. Partridge’s Young and Strong Program, which helped her determine her priorities as a 30-year-old woman and mother-to-be.
It paid off. The proof is when I stare in awe at my son Gavin scoring goals on the soccer field, or when I open my eyes in the morning to see my beautiful, strong, and healthy wife Meghan next to me.