Breast Cancer Discovered During PI Case

Empathy is the glue that connects me to my clients. Being present and earnestly listening to another person, their dreams, and their plight provides me with a greater understanding of how I can best serve them. Sometimes, my service is more than that of a lawyer; it is one of simple humanity and, at times, friendship.

Insurance companies focus on what a person IS NOT. We focus on who the person was before the injury, who they are now, and who they have the propensity to become. I applaud clients who keep going, even while enduring pain, disabilities, and physical limitations. People who have responsibilities, ambitions, and dreams may be down for a while but find the grit to keep trying to move forward. But what other choice is there?

A client whose life is already hanging in the balance still has to deal with everyday stressors. These stresses, housing costs, childcare, college, aging parents, illnesses of loved ones, fear of job loss, medication costs can seem even heavier when they hear, “We found cancer.” Fears, frustration, financial loss, and sheer bewilderment can break even the strongest person when cancer becomes a reality.

More than a few clients discovered they were stage 3 and 4 of cancer during a personal injury case. Today I want to share my story about Vivian*. To maintain her privacy, I decided not to disclose her real name nor her photo.

When Vivian called, asking to come by the office, I could tell something was wrong. By nature, Vivian is a stoic personality, but not this day. Her voice was shaking due to the shock of her cancer diagnosis. She did not know that I had received the diagnostic report as part of her injury case the day before. It was not my place to circumvent her physician’s notification. When she came, we cried together uncontrollably until I said something ridiculously funny about breasts to break the tension. She had no family to depend upon and felt lonely and afraid. She asked me to attend the oncology conference with her doctor. I did. Then, I got clearance to scrub and be with her through the biopsy procedure.

I knew I had to be there for her; nothing more, nothing less. I knew that feeling of being alone through tough times and wanted to pay it forward. To know that someone was there. To be seen as a person, a human being, was all that was required.

As her lawyer, we needed to ensure that all of her doctors interacted as a team. Triage was necessary to ensure that treatment of her injured body parts would not affect the growth of the tumor. She had to delay pending surgical procedures for her shoulder and neck while undergoing the initial cancer treatment. Her doctors carefully selected medications for inflammation and pain. Vivian’s care plan was also conservative consisting of physical therapy, stretching, acupuncture, and even yoga.

“V,” as I call her, is a breast cancer survivor! And, yes, we did resolve her personal injury claim. Clients are much more than “a case” or “a fee.” For me, clients are people first. I am so honored and grateful that she called and asked me to be there. Thus, my motto for over 20 years has been “working hard to help rebuild the lives of those seriously injured.” I’ve learned over time that rebuilding can come in a myriad of forms.