Moments after Eve Bender was told that a suspicious spot on her breast was cancerous, she phoned her brother, Lew Bender, who runs a cancer research company. “He said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s like an in-grown toenail, you just fix it,’” the sales executive recalls.
His blithe response helped Bender sleep that night, but by 7 a.m. the next morning, she was back on the phone. Her doctor friend, Hara Schwartz, advised her not to be emotional, to get a couple of opinions and treat it. She then called four breast-cancer survivors in her network, and battered them with questions: Where do I start? Who’s the best surgeon? What’s the timeline for surgery?
In quick succession, the native New Yorker had assembled her “cancer team”: two top cancer doctors, one at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), the hospital that diagnosed her, and another at Memorial Sloan Kettering for a second opinion; her boyfriend, Derek Bensen, for emotional support; Amy Cole, a close friend who would attend some appointments with her; Eileen Z. Fuentes, a patient navigator at CUMC; her boss, Jane Seo, who offered her immediate support at work; and, for post-surgery, Luana DeAngelis, a holistic practitioner who helps during treatment and recovery through her You Can Thrive! organization in Manhattan.