Kathy Bazazi has worked at the Images oncology boutique at Mass General Hospital for 24 years.
“I love my job,” she says. “I don’t go to work.”
The boutique allows women going through cancer treatment to regain part of their identity.
“[We provide] breast prosthesis, bras, wig fitting we can help them with,” she says. “Even the appearance challenges with makeup.”
Kathy has helped provide thousands of women with crucial support as they undergo trying times. But two years ago, she was the one in need of that same support following a routine mammogram.
“I saw my cell phone was ringing,” she says. “I noticed it was the breast center number that’s usually calling my work number to say if someone was being late or what have you. So I said, ‘Uh oh, that isn’t good.’”
Kathy was diagnosed with Stage-2 breast cancer. She immediately thought of her three children, ranging in age from five to 12 at the time.
“You worry about making it,” Bazazi says of her initial diagnosis. “If I’m gonna be able to take care of everyone.”
Her battle included chemotherapy, radiation and a powerful cancer drug to treat the aggressive form she was diagnosed with.
“My initial thing was, don’t tell anybody. We get through the year and I’ll just wear my wig and make it work.”
She did eventually end up having an emotional conversation with her kids, but kept going to work almost every day. She rarely told the women who came in to get fitted for a wig, that she was wearing one herself.
“I wanted it to be about them,” she says. “Not about what I was going through.”
Kathy had a lumpectomy and in May of last year finished her last round of treatment. Her tight-knit group of co-workers have been inspired by the way she tackled her life-changing diagnosis.
“She just always put on such a brave face and continued to help all of the oncology patients that came in,” says her colleague Emily Wallace.
Last year, Kathy helped Mayor Marty Walsh cut the ribbon at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. Then she walked by herself as a survivor, an experience she describes as surreal.
“All these emotions,” she says. “I was there to support, before now, people are there cheering you on. I used to be the cheerer, now I’m the one walking through.”
This year, she’s walking with friends and family and raising money for others – helping those diagnosed with breast cancer just like she always has.
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