Exceptional Cancer Care From Diagnosis Through Recovery
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has the benefit of having the care of one of the finest teams of specialists in the nation when it comes cancer care. Our Regional Center for Cancer care is also an affiliate of the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. That means our cancer patients also benefit from access to the medical and surgical specialists and subspecialists of Penn State Hershey.
We stress a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together the best medical minds with those who can provide post-diagnostic care and strive to make the experience of our cancer patients and their families as positive as possible.
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Many people, it seems, avoid cancer screenings, even if they schedule yearly physical exams. One reason is inconvenience. Another reason: fear. This article will give you the steps to take in easing your worry.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments save lives. They also can bring a variety of temporary but unpleasant side effects.This article provides an overview of these side effects.
Being a caregiver for a spouse with cancer may be tough job. This article will provide strategies and tips for caring for a loved one.
Beyond the Physical: Support for Your Well Being
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis, as well as recovering from cancer, is not limited to physical healing. Many people draw encouragement, strength and motivation from support groups and/or others facing similar challenges.
Lancaster Regional has partnered with local organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the United Way and Hospice of Lancaster County to provide a vast network of support options, and educational resources at no charge to ensure your overall wellness during and after what can be a very stressful time in life.
With the American Cancer Society, for example, patients have access to:
- Cancer Survivors Network™ – A “virtual” community created by and for cancer survivors and their families
- Reach to Recovery® – One-on-one support from fellow breast cancer survivors
- Hope Lodge® – Lodging for out-of-town patients and families
- Children’s camps – For children who have or have had cancer
- Look Good...Feel Better – Help with appearance-related side effects of treatment
- Look Good... Feel Better for Teens
- Circle of Sharing – Personalize your cancer information
- Patient Navigator Program – Personal cancer guide: This Program connects you with a patient navigator at a cancer treatment center. You can talk one-on-one with a patient navigator about your situation. This person will listen in your time of need. Call the ACS at (800) 227-2345 to learn more about this program.
Mr. Harry Wilkinson
February 2010 was a terrible month for more than just the snowfall in Lancaster County. For Harry Wilkinson of Stevens, PA it was also a long month of bronchitis. Harry says, “I coughed and coughed. Everyone feels like they have been hit by a truck after suffering through such an illness.”
By late March, Harry was still not feeling any better. And it was discovered why. Blood tests uncovered that he had a severe case of anemia. An endoscopy by his gastroenterologist, Dr. Richard Elkin of Regional Gastroenterology Associates of Lancaster, and a provider of gastroenterology services at Lancaster Regional, uncovered that he had a cancer of the duodenum - the first part of his small intestines. Harry needed extensive surgery to save his life. Harry had no family history of cancer and so he and his wife were understandably shocked and very, very worried.
Having the choice of hospitals and surgeons, Harry elected Dr. Robert Conter with General and Surgical Oncology Specialists of Central PA - one of the premiere Surgical Oncologists in the nation, and also affiliated with Lancaster Regional.
Harry underwent an eight hour surgery at LRMC, in which Dr. Conter performed a Whipple procedure to remove the tumor in his duodenum. Thankfully, it was discovered that the cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes and the surgery was extremely successful. In fact, he needed no chemotherapy and no radiation therapy. But as he later found out, he might have lived a maximum of one year if the cancer had not been discovered by Dr. Elkin.
Harry spent more than three weeks at LRMC recovering in his private room in the ICU. After more than 21 days of tube feedings and crushed ice, he was doing much better. On his birthday he had just one request for his first “real” food. “A cup of hot tea would taste so nice,” he said. So Dr. Conter himself arrived with steaming cup of British Blend tea – Harry’s favorite.
“See, that is the type of behavior that made my entire experience so bearable,” comments Harry. “While I saw Dr. Conter every day, sometimes in between his visits my wife had questions. And when she called Dr. Conter’s office, a real person always answered the phone and her questions were always answered right away.”
Harry continued the healing process as an inpatient in LRMC’s Rehabilitation Services, regaining his strength and focusing on tasks that would help him once he returned home. It was a long haul, but Harry remained positive and bonded with his rehabilitation therapists.
Today, Harry is back to swimming, to driving…to daily living! He says he is tired, but is doing very well. So well, in fact, he also volunteers in Lancaster Regional’s Rehabilitation Services by playing guitar for current patients. He tells them, “Have faith. I have been where you are.” He is a great source of inspiration to the patients and everyone looks forward to his visits, staff and patients alike.
“My experience at Lancaster Regional was that my surgery team saw me every single day. I was so well cared for by all; cardiology, pulmonary, gastroenterology, rehabilitation, infectious disease, the nurses…everyone. If I could get one message across from telling my story, it would be to say thank you to everyone who took care of me. I can never thank them all enough.”
Harry is a true success story from start to finish. He listened to his body when he did not feel well. And Lancaster Regional guided him hand-in-hand through his battle with and recovery from cancer.
Rebecca, Landisville, PA
In January 2011 I went to have a typical mammogram and was told by the radiologist to also get an ultrasound before leaving. After reviewing the results, she thought it best that I return in six month to repeat the mammogram and if necessary the ultrasound.
Six months later, I saw the reminder on my calendar and thought to myself “I will get around to it” and was in no rush to make an appointment. I then received a letter in the mail, reminding me that it was time for my mammogram and ultrasound. Begrudgingly, I decided to go and get the tests completed.
Second Mammogram and Ultrasound
After my second mammogram and ultrasound, the radiologist felt I should have an MRI to be safe – as something he saw concerned him. The request was sent to my insurance company, but it was rejected. My risk factors were so low – no family history of breast cancer, never smoked, etc. – that there was no way I could possibly have breast cancer.
After my insurance rejected the request for an MRI, I thought to myself “I’m sure I don’t have cancer” and decided not to worry about having an MRI completed. However, my daughter was insistent that I should play it safe and have an MRI done, paying for it out of pocket if necessary. And, I had a feeling in my gut that I needed to look into this further.
Dr. Enrico Martini of OBGYN of Lancaster is my OB/GYN and delivered my children. I contacted Dr. Martini to ask for his advice. He told me that I should go see Dr. Ann-Marie Hugh at Breast Health Associates. I believe his recommendation ultimately saved my life.
My first impression of Dr. Hugh was that she was very knowledgeable, very compassionate and very professional. Dr. Hugh was perfect – she was really concerned and looked at everything. She even filled out a form for my insurance company. However, once again, they declined paying for an MRI.
Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) Discovered
Dr. Hugh did not want to give up on this and wanted to pursue it further – so I had a biopsy. The biopsy showed that I had Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS). In other words, I had breast cancer. Dr. Hugh told me if I had to have breast cancer, this was the best type to have. DCIS is breast cancer in the lining of the milk ducts that has not yet invaded nearby tissues.
However, after the MRI, which was now approved, Dr. Hugh saw something else in the same area as the DCIS that she found suspicious. I was given the option to have a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation or a mastectomy. I decided to have a mastectomy.
I was very nervous and scared for my surgery. However, everyone I encountered at Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center was great. Everyone was so personable and eager to help – it definitely put me at ease.
Patricia, Lancaster, PA
I would like to share my story of being a patient in a local hospital here in Lancaster County. My career consisted of being a surgical technician, and in that position I had the opportunity to travel all over the country working in various hospitals on various work assignments. Having a medical background has also given me the awareness of how important it is to listen to my body. So, when I noticed changes in my breasts, I went in for my first mammogram ever at the age of 46 – something that I had kept putting off.
When I was informed that I needed additional diagnostic screenings, I began research to find a breast specialist in the area. During my career, I had the opportunity to work alongside a breast surgeon in California who specialized specifically in breast cancer. Upon working with her, I knew the value of having a breast specialist care for me from this point on. This is why I chose Dr. Ann-Marie Hugh of Breast Health Associates.
My first impression of Dr. Hugh was that she was very knowledgeable and she demonstrated sincere compassion. I did my homework in researching her background which left me feeling confident that she is current with the latest testing’s and technology and providing current information related to breast cancer research. She was very thorough in explaining to me in detail the next steps and then allowed me to discuss any and all concerns I may have had. She was very patient with me, taking the time to listen. She was very informal and she made it a point to allow me to have a voice in the decisions for myself and my care all along the way. I was then scheduled for my biopsies.
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) Discovered
The pathology report from my biopsy was that of Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), both Estrogen and Progesterin receptor positive. DCIS is a form of breast cancer where the cancer is still inside the milk duct and is not considered invasive at this stage. This type of cancer is fueled by both estrogen and progesterin.
I chose the lumpectomy followed with radiation treatments. Because the cancer was Estrogen and Progesterin positive, an oophorectomy was suggested (removal of the ovaries) followed by a drug therapy of tamoxifen for 5 years. With one of the side effects of tamoxifen being a possibility of uterine cancer and endometrial cancer, and due to my health problems of heavy menstrual cycles causing much pain, It was determined that a total hysterectomy would be the best option for me.
Lumpectomy and Hysterectomy
I decided to have a lumpectomy and a hysterectomy at the same time, the same day. Even though I had been a Surgical Tech in the past, I was still very nervous and very scared – I wasn’t used to being on this side of a surgery. I had never been sick before so it was all new to me. This really opened my eyes and gave me a true understanding of what patients go through before they come into the operating room.
Heart of Lancaster
It brought me down to a new level and gave me a deeper appreciation for the reasons why I chose to be in this field. My surgery was scheduled at Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center, in Lititz, Pa. I have to admit, that at one time in my life I had said “If I ever have to have surgery, please don’t let it be at Heart of Lancaster.” I was judging the facility on its appearance – it’s a small hospital. When I realized I was scheduled there, I worried about things like my privacy and how I would be treated. I worried about my surgery and who would be taking care of me.
I can honestly say that I am so very thankful that my surgery WAS at Heart of Lancaster. They didn’t just treat me with the utmost respect and give me the privacy I needed - they gave me the privacy I deserved because that is just who they are. I was treated with extreme professionalism and care. It was the nurses who made the biggest impression on me. They ran their departments in such a way, it just flowed. Their attitudes were that of concern and compassion. It was obvious that they took pride in their work, continually going above and beyond to make sure that I was comfortable.
Attentive, Respectful and Professional
The nursing floor I stayed on was well managed. The nurses were very attentive, respectful and professional. I never had to ask for anything. My room was very clean and the food was very good (it really was!). In having had a bad experience at a larger hospital months later, I appreciated even more the care I had received at Heart of Lancaster.
Dr. Hugh did my lumpectomy and Dr. Dan Kegel of OBGYN of Lancaster did my hysterectomy via the da Vinci Surgical System. I must admit, to have been a recipient of a surgical procedure done by the Da Vinci System, I would never elect to have a surgical procedure done any other way if possible. I was up and walking around in 3 days. Both Dr. Anne Marie Hugh and Dr. Kegel made it a point to see me both before and after my surgeries. After being sent home, it was determined that I would need another lumpectomy, I was told that the margins were not clear and Dr. Hugh informed me that these cells did not appear on the original MRI with contrast and she needed to take a little more.
Susan Waltersdorf, the Nurse Navigator
Susan Waltersdorf, the Nurse Navigator for Dr. Hugh, was also there with me every step of the way. If there was ever a perfect person for this job – it is undoubtedly Susan. Her disposition never wavers. Susan is the most compassionate, sincere and solid nurse I have ever met. As one begins their journey, Susan is the go to person of information for any questions or concerns one may have. She is patient, empathetic, informal and soft. She takes the time to listen, and is not worried about rushing you because the next patient may be waiting in the room beside you. You are a person at the Women’s Breast Health Center, not a number.
Susan remained the same consistent, compassionate person from the beginning of my journey to the end. I was always left knowing that I was in good hands. Susan’s very thorough in explaining the details of your care and she shows that by going above and beyond to even calling you at home, after hours, just to check on you. Following my second lumpectomy which was again performed at the Heart of Lancaster, my radiation began in November and completed in January. I am now cancer free.
In Good Hands and In Good Care
Having gone through this experience has changed everything about my life. Although every woman’s journey with breast cancer is her own, the journey is still shared with the health care professionals who have dedicated their lives to caring for others when they cannot care for themselves. The staff at the Heart of Lancaster, the nurses, the doctors, the surgical team, my room, my food, it all tied together to make one of my most scariest moments of my life to quickly be put to ease with assurance that I was in good hands and in good care.
I want to thank everyone for your kindness, compassion and professionalism towards me. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for the people who cared for me during my illness. I thank you all.
Cancer – A Caregiver’s Perspective from a Fellow Survivor
Mark Moore, RT, Program Director/Radiation Oncology, Keystone Cancer Center at Lancaster Regional (717) 735-3111
I have had the privilege and opportunity to share in the treatment and recovery of many different patients with many different illnesses. But I have always held a special appreciation for those patients fighting the battle with cancer.
There are so many different cancers to define, state-of-the-art treatment technologies, and people skilled to help provide support in the field of cancer care. Although these are vital pieces of the “cancer treatment pie” we never want to lose sight of the patients themselves.
I was exposed to cancer for the first time at the ripe old age of 14 when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. My first thought was I was going to die. A 75% may make for a passing grade in school, but does nothing to instill confidence when presented as a survival rate. After 18 months of chemotherapy and radiation however, I was on my way.
Often times, I see the same fear and uncertainty in the patients I see every day. But overwhelmingly more often than not, they are the ones that put a smile on our faces and make us sincerely happy to be right where we are.
The news of a cancer diagnosis hits harder than most can imagine. Sometimes the thoughts and concerns of those close to you become even more important than the battle to come and that compounds the discomfort of treatment. Many patients I talk with are more concerned with how they are affecting those around them.
Earlier in my career in radiation therapy, I recall a conversation with a patient who was losing her battle with breast cancer. After completing treatment for the week, I asked her about her weekend plans, as I knew she had children visiting at home. She simply stated she knew she had little time left and, “wanted every additional moment she could steal to mean something.” She dismissed her own discomfort. But I remembered her words wherever I travelled. I realized that cancer patients, regardless of condition, are some of the most upbeat, determined, stoic, and self sacrificing individuals one could ever meet.
Thankfully, we continue to offer improved treatment options through advancements in radiation therapy, surgery, and medical oncology. We are now seeing an increasing number of patients being cured from later stage diseases. In addition, early detection in many cancers, such as breast and prostate, has afforded many patients more definitive treatment.
My respect and admiration for those battling cancer grows with each day. My hope is that yours has as well. I am one of the few who have the privilege of being influenced by their spirits on a daily basis.
Coping with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Susan Waltersdorf, R.N., Breast Patient Navigator, Breast Health Center (717) 393-5639
A diagnosis of breast cancer affects individuals and their families in many different ways. The initial news brings with it a deluge of information and decisions to make regarding treatment options. Life is already busy and the demands of work and family allow little room to take care of ourselves. But suddenly the reality sets in and one must stop and place themselves at the head of the line and listen to the inner voice saying it is okay to ask for help, to talk to our families and spouse or partner about our feelings.
Sharing emotions is probably one of the hardest things as humans to do. But by sharing ones feelings, it is a comfort to all parties involved. When one tells a loved one how they feel; it gives that person comfort and gives the loved one a chance to show their support. It is helpful when asking for support to give specific, tangible things with which you may need help. This provides organization in your thoughts and allows family or friends a way to really understand your needs. Things like going to the grocery store, pharmacy, or providing a ride to an appointment; all provide opportunities for someone to show their support.
Surgical treatment of breast cancer may cause changes in our appearance. Talk about these changes with your spouse or partner. By being open concerning these changes and their impact upon you, the less likely you are going to pull away emotionally from a loved one. Fear, sadness, loss are all natural emotions in this time of adjustment. Through sharing how one feels about their body image with a partner, it allows them to know what your needs may be.
While cancer and its treatment are stressful for all involved, there are mind and body techniques that can assist with coping with the stress. Breathing is the center of life. Anxiety and stress can make us take shallow and short breaths. A sigh or laugh is the body’s way of making us breathe deeply. We feel more relaxed and less tense after a deep breath. Take in a deep breath from your diaphragm; as you breathe in, push out your abdomen, hold it for a few seconds and then slowly exhale, drawing in the abdomen. Repeat this several times.
Additionally, meditation can help to reduce stress or anxiety. Repetitive prayers are a type of meditation. One form of meditation; focusing on a word or a sound called a mantra, helps to relax the mind. Choosing an affirming word like hope, love, or peaceful helps to relax the mind and keep it from jumping from one thought to another or one worry to another. Once you choose your “mantra”, find a quiet spot and repeat it to yourself for a 15 to 20 minute time period. A combination of breathing and meditation, called guided imagery also provides comfort to many In this technique, as you take deep breaths you imagine a peaceful setting; creating a calm, dream-like state.
Music or sounds of nature are also helpful in creating a relaxed and peaceful state of mind. Many breast cancer survivors are also experiencing benefits from the practice of yoga. The yoga postures incorporate deep breathing and meditation and have been shown to reduce the physical and emotional symptoms associated with breast cancer treatments.
A diagnosis of cancer is a journey in life; one that changes many things but it does not take away the person we are. It is a transforming life lesson and a time for new beginnings.