As a breast cancer survivor and physical therapist, Dr. Janae Finley understands the road to recovery.
Can you share what your experience with breast cancer was like?
My experience with breast cancer was different from the average person’s, working in the healthcare field. Sometimes the doctors were a little bit more forthcoming with information. But also, at the same time, there was a misconception that I understood everything they were talking about. So, there were things that I don’t really feel like were completely explained to me, and that was kind of the assumption for my whole journey. I didn’t really get a lot of information, because it was assumed that I already knew.
What I’ve discovered throughout the journey is kind of what everyone else discovers: You don’t know what you don’t know. So, I went into everything thinking that I was going to be this strong, resilient person, but was really taken back by the fact that I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I was kind of just going with the flow.
How did you remain resilient through it and during recovery?
Maintaining my resilience through my journey was actually a little hard for me. I feel like I had a lot of friends and family for physical support, but I didn’t feel like I really had a lot of emotional support. But what I found helped me the most was finding people to talk to. So, whether it was breast cancer survivors that are in my same age range who understood what I was going through or talking to a counselor. I think that finding a connection with someone who understands your situation and being able to just express everything you’re going through really helped lift the burden off of me.
What is the role of physical therapy for breast cancer patients and survivors?
The role of physical therapy for breast cancer patients and survivors is really about quality of life. We take situations where it seems like maybe there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, and make patients see that there is life beyond breast cancer. You can restore their function, motion, and ability to interact with friends and family who are a part of their journey, and get them back to what their life was before breast cancer.
As a physical therapist at TurningPoint, you’ve encouraged so many patients to take care of themselves. How does your own story influence your helping hand toward others?
I think my own story helps influence others by showing patients that it’s okay. It’s okay to not know, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to ask questions, and it’s okay to be your own advocate.
I kind of learned the hard way that I don’t know everything, and I don’t need to keep everything bottled up inside me. It’s okay to look to others for support, and it’s okay that you’re not okay. Once I accepted the fact that I needed help, I really was able to understand where everyone else was coming from, and I can help them grow into becoming their own advocate and taking charge of their journey and recovery as well.
Given the importance of raising awareness of racial disparities that exist in breast cancer outcomes and survivorship, what words of empowerment can you extend to other Black women facing breast cancer?
Words of encouragement that I could give to other Black breast cancer survivors would be to be your own advocate. We need to be asking more questions and making sure that we have not become a number in the huge healthcare system that we have in this country. We need to make it known that we don’t know, and we don’t know what we don’t know.
If we don’t understand something, it needs to be broken down in a way that we can understand so that we know what’s going on with our body. No one else understands our body more than we do, so if there’s any medication or treatment that needs to be done, we should know how that’s going to affect us not just in the short term, but in the long run.
I think if we ask more questions, be our own advocates, and look out for ourselves, then we can do better with survivorship.