In 1974, Cindy came to Atlanta from Cleveland in search of excitement, new friends and a job teaching. What she got was a husband, two wonderful children and a lifetime of care at Northside Hospital. Three years after she married her husband Charlie in 1981, Cindy found out she was pregnant. She asked around for recommendations, and everyone told her to go to Northside.
"Everyone had their baby there," Cindy said. "Back in those days, everything in the baby part of the hospital was mauve. That was the popular color. I remember feeling like I was staying at the Marriott."
Cindy's pregnancy was virtually problem-free. She had the typical morning sickness and a few cramps, but nothing serious. But moments before she was ready to give birth, the baby's heart rate dropped rapidly.
"I didn't understand what was going on at the time," she said. "All of a sudden, the distress signal went off, and before I knew it there were five nurses at my bedside." According to the staff, when babies descend through the birth canal too quickly, sometimes their heart rate drops.
"They told me to lie on my side, and right when I did, the baby was fine", Cindy said. "While the nurses and doctor were concerned they were very calm. They never made me feel panicky. They just took care of it." Amy was born on March 22, 1984, without another incident.
Almost exactly three years later, she was back at Northside - this time for the birth of her son, Steven. "He was a kicker," Cindy said. "He came out kicking, and kicked for the next 10 years."
For many years Cindy's only contact with Northside was the birth of her children or to visit family and friends. That quickly changed after a visit to her doctor.
"I went to my gynecologist for a check-up, and I told him about some pains I was having in my left breast. I didn't have a family history of breast cancer, so I wasn't sure what it was," Cindy said. "I was pretty panicked when my doctor referred me to a radiologist. That was a Tuesday."
On Wednesday, the next day, Cindy had a mammogram at Northside. The results were puzzling. "He said my left breast was fine, but there was something in my right breast," Cindy said. "I went to Dr. Michael Hoffman, a surgeon right away."
Cindy had fluid removed from the mass the same day. On Thursday, the doctor called her home and said the results were inconclusive. Even though no cancer was found, the tumor "had to come out."
Cancer sends you a very clear message and it makes each day, each moment, extra precious.
"I couldn't have a lumpectomy because the tumor was so large – about 3 cm. I would have looked deformed, so I had to schedule a mastectomy" Cindy said. "He asked if I wanted to schedule it for the following Monday, and I just looked at him and said Dr. Hoffman, I just can't wait. I asked if he had plans that Saturday. He didn't, so we scheduled the surgery for that morning."
Two days later, Cindy had the tumor and 17 of 38 lymph nodes removed. One came back cancerous.
"My oncologist Dr. Pradeep Jolly recommended chemotherapy, so we agreed that was the best thing. But we had to wait until the surgery healed," Cindy said. "You know, when you hear that kind of news, it's not about the chemo. You're emotional because you have cancer. It feels like you're at war with your body."
Cindy went through nine chemo treatments in six months at Northside, beginning that October. "Having kids really kept me going. My daughter, Amy, was supposed to have her bat mitzvah the following year, and I just kept telling myself that I was going to be the one that planned it," Cindy said. "No one else was going to do it but me. I could tell Charlie was scared to death, but I was determined."
The nurses, who Cindy seemed to see a lot of, also served as her anchors. "I always felt I got the best care," she said. "I never felt like the nursing staff rushed me or made me feel uncomfortable. They always projected a positive, caring attitude."
After her chemo was over, Cindy came away with an even deeper love for her children, her husband, family and friends. And she set out on her mission of planning Amy's bat mitzvah.
"It was as wonderful as I wanted it to be and as creative as I wanted," said Cindy of the murder-mystery planned event. "When I was going through chemo, that's what I thought about every day. That was my focus, being able to plan my daughter's bat mitzvah, to be there for that special day."