Beth had always been proactive about her own health. Her family history of cancer – her father passed away from colon cancer and her mother is an 11-year breast cancer survivor – coupled with her work in the healthcare industry made her keenly aware of the risks she faced. Though her hectic work schedule put her on the road on an almost weekly basis, the 50-year-old maintained a healthy lifestyle, exercised regularly and, since she was 35, never missed a yearly mammogram.
Despite all her precautions and preparations, she knew what her family history meant. So she was prepared, as much as one can be, for the news she received at 1:41 p.m. on September 25, 2012. Breast cancer.
“I knew this would be something I’d be dealing with in my lifetime,” she says. “I was distressed, as anyone would be when you hear those three horrible words, ‘You have cancer.’ But I also knew it was very early.”
It was caught so early, in fact, that the cancer on the mammogram was nothing more than five grains of sand. Were it not for the state-of-the-art digital mammograms at Columbia St. Mary’s Cancer Centers, Beth’s cancer might have gone undetected.
Within a couple hours of the initial call, Beth was contacted by nurse navigator Deb Theine to set up her care conference with Columbia St. Mary’s multidisciplinary team of cancer care givers. These meetings are the backbone of our cancer program and are designed to provide the patient with the most compassionate and convenient care possible. Every member of the patient’s cancer team – the nurse navigator, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, surgeon, radiologist, dietician, clinical health psychologist and others – comes together to meet with the new patient in one setting. There, together, they develop an ideal and personally tailored treatment plan.
“I was really impressed with the care conference. Everything was coordinated to the Nth degree,” Beth says. “I had a meeting for a second opinion all scheduled but after my care conference I cancelled it. This was the team I wanted to take care of me.”
For Beth, with her hectic schedule, the fact that her cancer was caught early and her successful lumpectomy, her team went with a course of brachytherapy, a newer, more intense method of treatment in which radioactive material is placed directly inside the body.
“They were all concerned with how can we fit this into my life. Everyone was more than willing to work around my schedule,” she says. “They understood I needed to keep going on with my life.”
Twice a day for five days was all it took. And just three days after her treatment ended, she was on a plane to Vegas, back at work.
“It was an incredible experience,” Beth says. “The care team was phenomenal. Everyone was so wonderful.”