Q+A with 2022 Raveis Ride+Walk speaker Micki Gebhardt

Micki Gebhardt, 64, has been with William Raveis since 2004 and currently serves as the Strategic Growth & VP Sales manager in the Glastonbury, CT branch. Micki will be the featured speaker at the 2022 Raveis Ride+Walk.

Originally from Long Island, NY, Micki has two adult children and lives in Marlborough, CT with her husband.

Micki and her husband, Eddie

What is the main message about your cancer journey that you would like to share as we approach the 2022 Raveis Ride + Walk?
On April 8, 2011 at 8:30 a.m. when I found out I had breast cancer and I could not get ahold of my husband, I walked into my Raveis Wethersfield office and just broke down. I eventually went home early and was trying to process the news. My bedroom window was open and the fresh, crisp air was flowing in. I heard the sounds of my neighbors and life happening right outside my window and everyone was just going on with their day. But I remember thinking, at that moment, that all I cared about were the simple things in life. I wanted to watch the Yankees and the Giants with my husband; I wanted to go to the beach with my sister; and I wanted to see my children thrive.  All the other stuff was just fluff.

With which type of cancer were you diagnosed in 2011?
It’s been a very long and arduous journey. In 2011, I was given the diagnosis of my primary cancer of breast cancer. In 2017, I was given a diagnosis of a second primary cancer (not related to my breast cancer): parotid gland (salivary gland). About three years later, I had two different surgeries to remove tumors from my right upper lung. This past March 2022, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor which was promptly surgically removed. My oncologist suggested I have my pathology read at Memorial Sloan Kettering to understand the history of my cancers, and they confirmed the brain tumor was linked to my parotid gland.

What were your first symptoms? How did you ultimately find out you had cancer?
For me, there were no symptoms at all with the breast cancer. It was diagnosed from a mammogram and biopsy. This is why we should all make scheduling health checks a priority. Our screenings save lives, and give us the opportunity for early detection.

With the parotid gland cancer, I had a lump where my earlobe met my jawline that I didn’t think much of at the time, but decided I should go to my primary care physician to get it checked out. I am so glad I went. My primary physician, who thought it was probably nothing, sent me to an ear-nose-throat surgeon. He told me it was most likely benign, but because of the location it should be removed. There were scary risks if it grew, such as a stroke or it could impact my speech, memory and personality, to name a few.

Micki with her friend and colleague, Jeanette Gaudet

You have faced this journey several times. Where were you treated and what was your treatment protocol?
I had both my primary cancer surgeries at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT.  I had a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, followed by a medication called Tamoxifen for six years. The original plan was to have a lumpectomy and radiation as the tumor was small, but after an MRI they told me I had a lot of pre-cancer cells. I made the decision for a mastectomy, and my husband 100% supported that decision. It was considered a somewhat aggressive decision and, ultimately, turned out to be the right choice.  The irony was that after the pathology came back, there was a stage 1 tumor on my right side, so if I had opted for the lumpectomy, I am not sure when the cancer in my right breast would have been discovered.

When I was facing salivary gland cancer a few years later in 2017,  the treatment was surgery, followed by a month of radiation. I was able to keep working throughout the radiation, leaving the office at 3:35 pm every day to receive treatment. The side effects were minimal but I did have some issues with taste after radiation.

After my original diagnosis, I was being watched pretty carefully. In 2019 and 2020, doctors found a mass on my right lung through a routine check-in.  Both were removed at Stamford Hospital and it was thought at the time that it was my breast cancer that spread. They were going to keep an eye on me, but since there was no evidence of disease, they did not opt for any chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or other treatments.

Thankfully, through the William Raveis connection to Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, I was able to meet the President and CEO, Dr. Yung S. Lie. I consulted with her during this phase; I sent her my pathology and she was in agreement with the plan.

What happened in 2022 with your cancer status?
Another big blow. It was discovered that I had a tumor in my brain. It felt like divine intervention that it was discovered when it was. I had surgery to remove the tumor in March, which was followed by 10 very strong rounds of radiation to the brain. After an MRI two months later, there was a tiny spot that they said they could watch, but my doctor at Hartford Hospital knew that I would not want to wait, and they did one very focused radiation on that spot. I will have another MRI in October.

In addition, I have been going to Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) on the recommendation of my local doctors. Here’s what everyone needs to know: Even though I had a brain tumor, I do not have brain cancer. It was the result of another cancer in my body. So, I paid to have MSK read the pathology, and they concluded the brain tumor was a result of the parotid gland cancer. My doctors in Hartford thought I should see a specialist in Head and Neck Cancer there, and I would continue being monitored for the brain metastasis in Hartford.  I have never been so nervous in my life than the day we went to MSK. I met with the doctor who ordered a PET scan which thankfully was clear, but the five days waiting for the results were some of the toughest days of my life. I go back to MSK in early November.

micki gebhardt bill raveis
Micki with Bill Raveis

What level of support did you have from family and friends?
The support from both my family and my Raveis family has been amazing. I have managed two different offices during my journey and they have done too many things to mention. My family has been so supportive, and I have wonderful friends who have supported me in numerous ways throughout this journey.

How did you feel about your doctors and treatment centers?
I love my doctors at Hartford Hospital. I am a little nervous when I go to MSK as I did not have a prior relationship with them and this seemed more daunting to me.

What has meant the most to you as you have navigated through this and helped to keep you going?
My husband and two adult children. I cry when I think of them and how very much they mean to me.

What has surprised you most?
I was surprised by how strong I was even when my cancer spread to my lungs, but also how scared I have been since it went to my brain.

What do organizations like Dana Farber and Damon Runyon mean to you?
Damon Runyon and Executive Director, Dr. Lie, mean the world to me and have been an incredible resource. She sent me recommendations on who to consider at both Damon Runyon and MSK. I chose MSK based on the fact that my doctors here in Hartford have a relationship with them and it would make this process a bit easier.

What does it mean to you to be a part of this event?
I have always participated in this event and so appreciate the work that William Raveis does for people like myself. I am honored and thankful to be sharing my story.

 

 

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