A Remarkably Unexpected Journey

A Remarkably Unexpected Journey - Gratitude Story

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Deena Barlev

Deena Barlev had just finished her third backpacking trip across the Grand Canyon at the age of 60 and was feeling healthy, strong, and brave. Two weeks later, her life changed. “I went in for a breast screening MRI that had been suggested six months earlier, despite a stable mammogram,” she says. “I thought it was an odd recommendation at the time. But it might have saved my life.”

The MRI revealed a tiny mass; a biopsy confirmed it was cancer. “I was apprehensive,” Barlev says. “My father and brother died of cancer within a year of each other just a few years ago, and even with world-class medicine, their care too often fell through the cracks.”

Barlev was fortunate to be referred to the cancer specialists at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center. “During the entire journey, my team communicated with each other and with me in a way that was professional, personal, and positive. Never was I treated like just another cancer case. They took the time to get to know my values and priorities,” she says. “It always felt like a partnership.”

“I search for adequate words to express my immense gratitude and fondness for every single person who cared for me,” she adds. “They’ve had a remarkable impact on my life that goes beyond their medical interventions. Getting a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, but my experience has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Barlev is now paying it forward by serving on the Oncology Patient Advisory Council at MedStar Montgomery and the Philanthropy Care Council, and volunteering with the American Cancer Society as a driver for patients needing transportation to oncology appointments. “A lot of people want to put their cancer experience behind them … my goal is to do whatever I can to put my experience to good use. I thank everyone who cared for me for their kindness, compassion, and expertise. I will always be grateful.”

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