Women's Center - Patient Stories

 

Cynthia Elizondo

"When I was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer at the age of 44, no one was more surprised than I.  There is no history of breast or any other form of cancer in my family going back two generations and I live a very healthy lifestyle.  Why was this happening to me?  I made an appointment to meet with the breast surgeon at the Jean McLaughlin Women's Center, who spent more than an hour explaining the diagnosis and possible treatment plans, depending on the results of further tests to be done.  I was also introduced to Cheryl Cina, the Genetics Counselor at the center, who recommended I get tested for one of the breast cancer

 genes.  

Genetics Counselor?  Why do I need a Genetics Counselor?  As stated, there is virtually no history of cancer in my family, so how could it possibly be a genetic form of cancer?  Cheryl explained to me that because of the aggressive nature of my cancer, coupled with my age (under 50), there was still a chance that I could carry the breast cancer gene, which would effect the treatment plan.  I agreed to do the test (a simple cotton swab of the inside of my cheek was all that was necessary), and I was shocked to learn two weeks later that Cheryl's precautions were warranted, as I do, in fact, carry the BRCA-1 gene.

I met with Cheryl again to understand what this means for me and my family (particularly my 18-year-old daughter!).  She took the time to explain to me everything that carrying this gene will mean, and, coupled with my breast surgeon, recommended a very different treatment plan from what we would have done if the tests had come back negative.  I discovered the risks for recurrence of breast cancer (very high), the risk of ovarian cancer (also high), and the steps I would need to take to minimize that risk.  I also learned what I would need to do to test my family members, so that they could take the necessary steps for themselves, as well.

I do not know whether Cheryl and the breast surgeon saved my life by their assessment of my situation, and recommending I get tested; however, I feel much safer knowing that together, we have done everything possible to prevent me from going through this cancer journey again.  

That was almost two years ago, and Cheryl has continued to be a source of information and support for me, not only as a breast cancer survivor, but also as a carrier of the BRCA-1 gene.  As the studies provide new information, she makes sure I am up-to-date on the latest research, and has put me in touch with a support group of other women in my situation.

I am happy to say I can sleep at night."

 

Paige Rollins

"'Blah, blah, blah…..cancer…” and the world turned fuzzy as I hung up the phone. Cancer.

I was a healthy 37 year old mom of two small children that was knocked over with the news that I needed to fight the most aggressive type of breast cancer. I felt all the feelings that you would expect, but all at once, confusion, anxiety, anger, helplessness, fear, and sadness. I wanted to live and to raise my children and do all the things a person gets to do in life. I was tossed into the land of cancer and I needed to quickly and accurately figure out a plan.

From the moment that Susan Gimbel walked into my doctor’s office door, I could feel her confidence and compassion. Susan explained to me her role as a breast patient nurse navigator and that she would be with me through the whole process; I wasn’t alone. We sat down and rated my anxiety in every area from treatment to childcare. She told me that when my anxiety rose in any area, that she would help with the littlest thing and take care of it. I think my anxiety immediately lowered just hearing that. If I wanted to beat cancer, I needed to stay calm and to think and fight.  Susan was always a call or email away and she could figure out anything; it is what I needed.

Now, after chemotherapy and surgeries, I am better. Actually, I think I am cured, but who knows what lies ahead in life. I was given the chance at life again, a redo. I play with my kids and enjoy the smallest parts of life. It’s true. You know that scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Jimmy Stewart runs around the city after getting a chance at life again yelling “Merry Christmas Bedford Falls. Merry Christmas ‘ol Building and Loan?” That is exactly how I feel almost every day; I was given the one gift that I wanted deep to my core, life. Susan Gimbel and her role as nurse navigator helped me in a way in which I can never thank her enough. She is a true hero."  

 

Jan Douglas

"The end of 2013 just before Christmas brought me some rotten news. Breast cancer had come back in my right breast.  The wonderful news was that this is when I met nurse navigator Susan Gimbel. She was a breath of fresh air and had such a “can do” personality.

I was having trouble getting things organized to get referrals completed to get things rolling for the biopsy. I had contacted the Women’s Center and spoke with Susan and she immediately got on the phone with my primary care physician and resolved the problem. Once the biopsy was completed and the diagnoses confirmed, Susan was there for me every step of the way. She checked in with me once-a-week, she assisted me with follow-up to Dr. Kosmos, my oncologist, she assisted with my scheduling of the mastectomy, she made my follow-up appointments with the surgeon. She was my rock. The Women’s Center connected me to my plastic surgeon, who is wonderful, gave me suggestions for oncologists, walked me through the surgery process. She helped so much by being that person I could always count on to get things done. One of the best things I appreciated was how quickly she would get back to me, she was truly a patient advocate and assisted as my liaison in getting insurance forms were completed and signed, appointments were scheduled and the follow-up she gave was so wonderful. When you are facing cancer and the worry gets in the way it was such a relief to have Susan at my back to help resolve those issues that caused frustration.

When I was originally diagnosed it seemed bleak, but after the mastectomy I found out that it was not as bad as expected. I know that the experience would not have been a positive result had I not had the help, love and care from the Women’s Center with Arch Health. Susan and her staff are exceptional and I pray that if you are faced with the frightening news, “yes, you have breast cancer,” that you choose to seek out the assistance of the Women’s Center. They certainly made a bad news experience turn out to be positive and nurturing.  If you are reading this please know that I have been through this twice now and know exactly how worrisome this can be. It was so refreshing to have the Women’s Center supporting me and assisting in so many ways that it made this trial more bearable. I highly recommend the Women’s Center.  The support, guidance and compassion that I received was outstanding. I felt guided toward the road to recovery and Susan helped me become a 'survivor.'"

 

Jeri Smith

"Although it was a diagnosis I had been waiting for since that of my mother and her sisters 24 years ago, I still found myself unprepared and filled with questions.  I have breast cancer!  My daughter summed it up perfectly:

'Since we found out about it in October, it has been a slow, painful trickle of information. Why, oh why, must lab results take so long to come back? Why does the terminology have to be so complex? Why are doctors’ appointments so hard to get? Why won’t anyone tell my mom what her best course of treatment would be? Why is it so hard to find straightforward information on the side effects and recovery time of surgery and treatment?'

It is obviously a time filled with much fear and many questions.  Very shortly after my diagnosis, I started receiving regular calls from Susan, the Breast Cancer Navigator at the Jean McLaughlin Women’s Center.  She has been a wealth of information, even when I wasn’t sure what questions to ask.  She has been the one person through this journey that I have been able to turn to for an explanation of all the procedures, results, treatments and expectations.  She has gently walked me through this process and has been my advocate.  She has educated me and informed me of beneficial tests and treatments.  At one point, when I found myself waiting for some results for far too long, she stepped in and I had the information within a few hours.  Susan has and continues to reach out to me on a regular basis, reminding me that she is always available.  I would like to commend the Jean McLaughlin Women’s Center for providing such a valuable service and Susan for being there for not just me, but all women who find themselves on this path."