Navy Veteran Jacqueline learned she had breast cancer during a routine screening at the DC VA Medical Center. After getting all her cancer treatment at VA, she never wants to go back to the private sector for care.
What did you know about VA? Did you have any preconceived notions about VA care?
I had none. I went in blindfolded and just hoped for the best. And thankfully it has been a rewarding experience. I was laid off, out a job in 2012 due to outsourcing, which left me without insurance. I was approaching 40 years old and getting regular checkups was my main goal.
When I started using the Washington DC VA Medical Center, they started having suspicion that I might have a tumor. Because I’ve gone through this over and over since my career in the military, and now as a Veteran, I really wasn’t alarmed.
I just thought it might be something where the imaging is not showing up properly. We’ll do your regular testing and you’ll walk away and everything will be fine. Well, that was not the case. This time they did find something.
And from that point on, and to this very day, I have been using the VA system as far as the chemotherapy, the radiation, the physical therapy.
Who makes up your care team?
Let me start off by saying my care team is the best in this world. And I owe them an enormous amount of gratitude. They have been from your women’s health. They have been from the oncology department, physical therapy. I even throw in voluntary services and my social workers.
I guarantee you for my next physician, I have no intentions of using the private sector. My VA care is all in house and that to me is very, very important… for any Veteran. And it’s really sad that maybe some civilians don’t have that opportunity.
Because you do really have to just go to whoever the specialist is and it could be from one side of town to the other. Not so with the VA Medical Center.
Describe some of your visits there, what that world is like for you.
To my surprise, it wound up being a very pleasant experience because no matter which service I would use, the staff and the physicians, they’re just happy to see you. You know they’re not happy for the situation, but they are happy to see you and the feeling was very mutual on my part.
So you actually enjoyed your cancer treatment?
I actually did enjoy my cancer treatment. I attend the Oncology Support Group on Wednesdays and we are one big family in there.
Everyone at VA that I had immediate contact with were very supportive. And where they may not have had the answer, they searched to see who might have the answer.
I take life as it comes and I always look for the silver lining. I have to grab myself by my boots and say, you know what? This is just another obstacle and you’ll get over this too.
That my life had to take this turn so dramatically means that I have to make the rest of my life better to do the most good, for the most people, in extraordinary ways. And that’s what I’m going to do.
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Bronwyn Emmet is a public affairs specialist with the National Veterans Outreach Office.