(GENESEE COUNTY, MI) Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI) will conduct free breast cancer screenings Thursday, Oct. 13, from 5 pm to 7 pm at GHCI, located at 302 Kensington Avenue in Flint.
The screenings are open to women and men ages 18 and older.
No appointment or registration is necessary. Simply walk in between the hours of 5 pm and 7 pm, and you will see a physician who will conduct the exam.
If the physician determines a mammogram is needed, it will be scheduled for a later date and provided free of charge to those without health insurance or who are underinsured and cannot afford the co-pay, thanks to the Pink ParTee Fund.
Support from the Pink ParTee Fund provides financial assistance for mammograms and to help with basic needs of breast cancer patients in active treatment.
For more information about the breast screenings, call Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute at 810.762.8226.
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute is located at 302 Kensington Avenue in Flint off R.T. Longway Blvd. between Dort Hwy and I-475.
Breast cancer can’t be prevented, but you can take steps to help detect it in its early stages. In addition to taking advantage of the free screenings offered at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. Breast self-exams will help women become familiar with how their breasts look and feel so they can alert their physician if they notice any changes.
When breast cancer is detected early, it can be treated more successfully, increasing the chances for survival.
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute provides the newest treatments and technology – right here where you need us. Visit www.ghci.org for more information.
The Community Foundation of Greater Flint has awarded a grant of $20,000 to Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI). Grant funds were awarded through the foundation’s Compassionate Living Fund, the Kommareddi Family Fund, the James and Desoline Cokley Family Fund, and the Samuel E. and Patricia A. Morello Family Fund.
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute will use these funds for addressing accessibility issues by providing transportation for cancer patients.
“On behalf of our patients, staff and physicians at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, I would like to thank the Community Foundation of Greater Flint for its generous grant,” announces Barry Fagan, interim executive director of Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. “These funds will help so many of our patients in need.”
Every year, thousands of Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute patients receive lifesaving care in a warm and welcoming setting. From aggressive treatments to state-of-the-art technology, Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute focuses on exceptional care, spiritual and emotional healing, and the best chance for a healthy, cancer-free tomorrow.
To learn more about the services and programs offered at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, and how the funds from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint will support cancer patients, call 810.762.8226.
The Community Foundation of Greater Flint (CFGF) serves the common good in Genesee County – building a strong community by engaging people in philanthropy and developing the community’s permanent endowment—now and for generations to come. CFGF helps donors support the causes they care about, today or through their estates. Since 1988 the Community Foundation has granted more than $130 million to nonprofit organizations to build a thriving community. CFGF serves Flint and all of Genesee County including its Community Funds in Clio, Davison, Fenton, Flushing and Grand Blanc.
Want to recognize a GHCI physician, nurse, volunteer or staff member? Please complete the form below to nominate them for our quarterly recognition program! Be sure to use specific examples of how this person demonstrates our values and demonstrates exceptional patient/customer service.
Nomination submission deadline: Feb. 15, May 15, Aug. 15, Nov. 15
The selection committee will review each nomination and choose a winner for each quarter. Those not chosen will be eligible for the award for one full year (from the date of the nomination).
Employees, physicians, volunteers, patients, visitors and family members can submit a nomination.
(GENESEE COUNTY, MI) Thanks to the generosity of the Pink Par-Tee charitable organization, Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI) received $46,000 to help breast cancer patients needing financial assistance.
The Pink Par-Tee 501c3 fund, created in 2010, provides financial support to local breast cancer
patients in active treatment who need help with basic needs such as rent, groceries and utility bills. Pink Par-Tee began with two young mothers who were members of Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc who wanted to honor a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since its beginning, the organization has raised close to $1 million – all to help in the fight against breast cancer.
‘We are so grateful to the women of Warwick Hills who selflessly work throughout the year to help our breast cancer patients during a most vulnerable time in their lives,” announces Sue Root, Director of Quality of Life services at GHCI.
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute provides the newest treatments and technology in a warm, welcoming setting – right here where you need us. Visit www.ghci.org for more information.
Recently, Dr. Rizwan Danish was interviewed by Ray Storey at the Genessee County Journal on the importance of cancer screening and cancer management. “Cancer has overtaken heart disease as the number one cause of death in the United States. And partly it’s because patients are getting older. We’re seeing more and more cancers and we are doing a better job with heart disease, which is why we’re seeing less and less deaths from heart disease. Now, when an individual gets cancer, the majority we can treat, even cure. So, if an individual gets cancer, thee is no need to panic. I think it’s important that they see a cancer specialist so that we can help guide the management of their cancer,” says Dr. Danish.
Through an experience she wishes she didn’t have, Tracie Johnson learned the importance of breast screenings. In 2002, doctors found a lump in her breast. Fortunately, it was benign and was removed through needle aspiration. After that frightening incident, Tracie chose a preventive approach regarding her breast health and obtained her first mammogram, and subsequently, two mammograms every year. She is grateful every single day for this decision.
In 2015, a mammogram revealed an abnormal cell in her right breast. “Because I was keeping up on my screenings, it was so small that it wasn’t even Stage 1,” the single mother and teacher in Grand Blanc announces with tremendous relief. She describes the tumor as the size of a dot from an ink pen.
She chose Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI) for her radiation treatments. “I knew I was in good hands, and I knew I would be fine,” she adds. “I had heard all good things about Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, that is why I chose it for my treatments. The staff were so warm and helpful, and they made my experience very positive.
“I believe people should stop thinking about what’s going wrong and start thinking about what’s going right, and that’s exactly what I did during my cancer journey,” she asserts.
After her last radiation treatment, the GHCI staff awarded Tracie with a certificate for “the patient with the best attitude,” she’s proud to say.
“If my story can reach one person holding onto fear about getting screened, that is my purpose. Maybe my voice and my words will encourage others to get a breast screening. What do you have to lose?”
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute is offering free breast screenings on Thursday, Oct. 14, from 5 pm to 7 pm at the institute, located at 302 Kensington Avenue in Flint. No appointment or registration is needed. Simply walk in between the hours of 5 pm and 7 pm, and you will see a physician who will conduct the exam. If the physician determines a mammogram is needed, it will be scheduled for a later date and provided free of charge to those without health insurance or who are underinsured and cannot afford the co-pay.
For more information about the breast screenings, call Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute at 810.762.8226. GHCI adheres to CDC recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The physicians of Genesee Hematology Oncology, PC are pleased to announce the addition of Hematologist/Oncologist Alyssa Kipke, DO, to their medical team.
Dr. Kipke completed a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at Ascension Genesys Hospital in
Grand Blanc and also performed her residency in internal medicine at Ascension Genesys. She obtained her medical degree from Michigan State College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2015, and prior to her medical training earned an undergraduate degree in nursing from Oakland University in Rochester. She is board certified in internal medicine.
“I’m very proud of my early educational background, graduating from nursing school before pursuing my career as a physician,” she reports. “I’ve used this experience throughout my career, which I find has helped me relate to all multidisciplinary participants involved in my patients’ care.”
Dr. Kipke was born and raised in Lake Orion. “It was important for me to stay in the community where I was raised, and I am excited for the opportunity to serve those who have helped me learn and grow into the physician I have become.”
Dr. Kipke is a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American College of Oncology, the American College of Hematology, the Michigan Society of Hematology and Oncology, the American Osteopathic Association and the American Medical Association.
The practice of Genesee Hematology Oncology is comprised of the following physicians: Paul Adams, MD; Khalil Katato, MD; Christopher Szyarto, DO; and Dr. Kipke.
Dr. Kipke is now accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment, call 810.762.8200. Genesee Hematology Oncology, PC is located inside Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute at 302 Kensington Avenue, Suite 2, Flint.
Thanks to virtual reality headsets, now in use at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI), chemotherapy patients can “travel” to a favorite peaceful destination during their treatments, helping relieve anxiety, apprehension, depression and pain, and reduce the side effects of fatigue. Patients feel more energized after their virtual reality experience.
Research shows, and patients have reported, that the use of virtual reality headsets is improving the patient experience. A pilot study on the virtual reality program documents overwhelmingly positive comments from patients. All of the participants said they enjoyed the experience, 98 percent reported it was relaxing, and 64 percent said it reduced anxiety and boredom.
“Our virtual reality headsets are a way for patients to transform themselves to a place of happiness, peacefulness and relaxation,” finds Sue Root, Quality of Life director at GHCI, who was instrumental in obtaining the funds to offer this service to patients.
“Patients are worried and anxious about their chemotherapy. What is going to happen? Will they be in pain? Will the treatments work? How long do they need to stay connected to an IV line? The minutes seem to drag on and on during their therapy, and so can their added stress,” Root notes. “If we can provide a positive, relaxing distraction, an escape from their life of cancer, patients will feel much better and more comfortable about their treatments and leave here much happier,” she finds. “We are helping remove them from the reality of their treatment and taking them to a place of peacefulness.
“You can tell someone how to meditate and imagine they are in a place of calmness, but during a chemotherapy session, that is almost impossible with all of the surrounding distractions,” Root finds. “Virtual reality through our headsets allows patients to see the visuals and hear the sounds of comfort, making it so much easier to find that place of peace.”
The headsets are simple to use. They are a hands-free individual unit. Patients can choose from 36 different experiences – life on a beach in Cape Cod, Irish landscapes, swimming with aquatic life or listening to and watching the gentle, soothing sounds of ocean waves. They also can tune into general educational information about their cancer, treatments, side effects and what to expect as a cancer patient – information they received from their physician but also offered visually and in easier to understand terms they can listen to as often as they want. The GHCI staff will show patients how the headsets work and guide them through the process of finding programs they want to watch. Programs run from five to 10 minutes in length.
The headsets are available to any patient undergoing chemotherapy but are not recommended for patients who have issues with dizziness, vertigo or motion sickness.
To learn more about this new service, offered only at GHCI, call Sue Root at 810.762.8022.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2021
(GENESEE COUNTY, MI) Did you know the bankruptcy rate among cancer survivors is 260 percent higher than those who live without cancer?
New Day Foundation for Families is a statewide organization dedicated to helping relieve some of the financial burden of families dealing with cancer. New Day works in partnership with Michigan hospitals and cancer centers such as Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute to customize a financial treatment plan. Studies show that financial difficulties for cancer patients have led to serious debt, bankruptcy and a disruption of needed medical treatment.
New Day Foundation provides vital resources to bridge this financial gap, allowing cancer patients to focus on their health instead of their financial concerns.
Katrina Skelton of Caro, a Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute patient, is just one individual who has benefited from New Day Foundation support.
“Thanks to the foundation, I received a one-year prescription of medical Ensure to help me gain weight. It is quite expensive, and we cannot afford to buy it on our own. I now weigh 101 pounds, the first time in four years that I have weighed over 100 pounds!” she is thrilled to announce. The product is delivered to her home every four months.
New Day Foundation also has paid for Katrina’s gas so she can travel the 112-mile round trip from Caro to Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute for her chemotherapy and radiation treatments. “The foundation also took care of our electric bill. They have helped our family so much!”
Amanda Boes, social worker at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, helped Katrina complete an application for financial assistance from New Day. “I would not have known about this service if Amanda hadn’t helped me out,” Katrina points out.
This is Katrina’s second battle with cancer, and she is very hopeful it will be her last. Her physicians – Radiation Oncologist Paul Kocheril, MD: and Medical Oncologist Rizwan Danish, MD – all work at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. “I’ve got a great team of doctors,” she reports. “I’m in very capable hands.”
Katrina admits she initially sought treatment at another cancer center and was disappointed in the care and service. “Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute doctors and staff have a special kind of caring I did not find at the other center.”
“New Day Foundation has helped families of our patients at Christmas so the kids still could enjoy the holidays,” reports Suzy Hosler, executive director of Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. “The organization also has provided thousands of dollars in financial support for our patients who are struggling with paying rent or utilities. We are very grateful for their assistance.”
New Day Foundation for Families has been in existence for 14 years. The organization has raised more than $5 million to help more than 4,500 families in Michigan. Its services include financial assistance for children and adults undergoing treatment, emotional support – licensed therapists provide services for free – Care Packs to families (containing comfort items such as blankets, prayer shawls, journals and age-appropriate toys), and financial services (New Day can help patients optimize insurance plans and minimize out-of-pocket medical costs and prescriptions). The organization also has volunteers who can grocery shop and deliver groceries to patients unable to do their own shopping.
“Families facing cancer have been hit hard during the pandemic,” reports Gina Kell Spehn, co-founder and president of New Day Foundation for Families. “All of us at New Day are addressing the emotional and financial impact of COVID-19 on our community. From loss of income and delayed treatment to food instability and increased risk of contracting the disease, our families are
facing more obstacles than ever before,” she finds. “We are fortunate to have wonderful hospital partners such as Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute and social workers like Amanda Boes to connect us to families in need.”
To learn more about New Day Foundation for Families, visit its website: foundationforfamilies.org.
To learn more about Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute and its services, visit the website at ghcr.org or call the institute at 810.762.8226.
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, right here, where you need us.
You just received a diagnosis of cancer and you are feeling overwhelmed.
“I’m scared …”
“Will I lose my job? I can’t take time off work.”
“I can’t afford treatment.”
“How am I going to tell my family?”
“I don’t know anything about cancer and treatments.”
“Who is going to help me?”
“I’m just too busy to deal with this.”
Fortunately, Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI) has assembled a team of experts to help you. An integral part of the team includes an oncology social worker who will provide the answers you are looking for. Amanda Boes, social worker at GHCI, is trained to educate, guide and equip patients with the tools to help empower them to progress through their treatment.
“I believe that is why Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute excels over other facilities,” Amanda announces. “Each member of the team utilizes his or her own specific skill set combined with the patient’s input to create a comprehensive treatment plan.”
Amanda is a patient advocate and views herself as a “neutral source” patients and families can rely on through the many phases of their cancer treatment. “It is important to be organized when navigating through treatment. One of the ways I can assist patients and families is by helping them plan for the psychosocial challenges they are currently experiencing and may have in the future,” she reports.
“I meet the patients and their families and assess their individual needs. No patient encounters are alike. One patient may only need to talk with me once during treatment, where other patients may need me daily,” she points out. “I help with a variety of needs including connecting patients with needed community resources and teaching coping strategies.
“I’m here to help relieve patient worries so they can concentrate on their treatment. I find solutions to the problems they encounter during their treatment.
“At Christmas, for example, I was able to coordinate with local and state charities who sponsored many of the patients’ families so they could have a memorable Christmas,” she says.
Amanda also shares a story about a patient recently diagnosed with cancer who lost his job. It left him and his wife with no income and no health insurance. Amanda helped the patient with applying for Social Security disability benefits and Medicaid and obtaining food assistance. She also was able to secure funds to help with rental payments and utility bills. Additionally, she has been providing emotional support to the patient and his family as they learn to cope with the cancer diagnosis, treatment and post treatment.
“Removing the psychosocial barriers that prohibit the completion of treatment is critical to the patient’s overall health and well-being,” Amanda finds. “That is why I provide services to patients and their caregivers throughout all phases of their treatment, from diagnosis to survivorship to bereavement.”
Social Work services are available for patients and caregivers in person, by phone or email, and through tele-health. Social Work services are free of charge and no referral is needed.
Amanda Boes has a master’s degree in clinical social work from Michigan State University. She is a licensed social worker through the State of Michigan. She is a member of The Association of Oncology Social Workers and the National Association of Social Workers.
To reach Amanda, call 810.762.8112.
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI) is the only cancer center in Michigan offering AccuBoost, a new, innovative, non-invasive radiation treatment option for early stage breast cancer patients choosing breast conservation therapy (surgical removal of cancerous tissue – commonly known as a lumpectomy).
“Most women with early stage breast cancer want to save their breasts, and now we have a proven technique that allows this to happen,” reports Paul Kocheril, MD, radiation oncologist and medical director of the Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute.
AccuBoost combines the power of breast immobilization and real time image-guidance with non-invasive, radiation shielding applications to achieve safe and excellent outcomes. This technique provides the radiation oncologist with as much control as possible to deliver a well-defined beam of radiation and target the radiation dose accurately and precisely to the site of the lumpectomy – the tissue that is the most likely location of future cancer recurrence.
“In traditional boost techniques, the breast is not immobilized, and often no daily imaging is conducted to ensure localization of the targeted area,” Dr. Kocheril finds. In addition, the AccuBoost technique is “100 percent non-invasive. We don’t insert any type of device or catheter into the breast to deliver treatment.”
According to Dr. Kocheril, MD, numerous published reports in reputable medical journals indicate patients with early stage breast cancer who choose a lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy with AccuBoost have as good of a chance at survival as a patient who opts for a mastectomy.
“It is up to each individual patient which option is right for her. At Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, we discuss the options thoroughly with our patients so they can make an educated decision,” Dr. Kocheril reports.
One patient noted: “The AccuBoost technique was a much more positive treatment than previous treatments I received. I had no pain or discomfort, no burning and no side effects.”
While the patient is seated at a mammography machine, the technologist immobilizes the breast in the machine applying only a small fraction of the pressure of a standard mammogram. Next, an image is taken while the breast is immobilized to determine the precise lumpectomy size, shape and location. These clear mammography images allow the radiation oncologist to deliver radiation to the exact site of the lumpectomy cavity and surrounding tissue.
Next, AccuBoost® applicators are placed on each side of the breast to deliver a focused radiation site. X-ray guidance targets the radiation to the lumpectomy site. The applicators, similar to a flashlight, deliver beams of penetrating radiation to the breast tissue that lies directly in front. By properly imaging the surgical site and positioning the applicators at multiple angles around the breast, the technologist is able to deliver an accumulated therapeutic dose of radiation in the target tissue without over-exposing the skin and intervening tissue and sparing normal skin and tissues. Several fields of radiation are delivered parallel to the chest wall allowing for full intensity to the targeted area while minimizing exposure to healthy tissue as well as the heart and lungs.
Benefits of AccuBoost
Two treatment options for patients
In breast conservation therapy, patients have two primary radiation treatment options, Dr. Kocheril points out. They are whole breast irradiation or accelerated partial breast irradiation. Both approaches have shown excellent cosmetic results. AccuBoost can be used for either form of treatment.
Whole breast irradiation (following a lumpectomy) includes daily sessions of radiation therapy to the whole breast for four to six weeks, and a radiation “boost” to the tissue surrounding the site of the cancer, which has proven effective in preventing cancer recurrence. “This approach has been considered the gold standard treatment for decades,” Dr. Kocheril notes. Patients can expect each treatment – from arrival to departure – to take about 30 minutes.
Accelerated partial breast irradiation is a newer non-invasive technique that treats only the tissue immediately around the site of the original cancer. This procedure can be completed in a shorter time frame – approximately five to 10 days (twice a day for five days or once a day for 10 days) – and more easily fits into the lifestyle of active women, Dr. Kocheril finds. “Patients should plan on being at our center for about one hour. Treatment only takes a portion of that time,” he points out.
“Patient comfort, safety and convenience is extremely important,” the radiation oncologist adds. “We take many steps to make sure every patient is as comfortable as possible during treatment.”
To learn more about AccuBoost, offered only at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, call the center at 810.762.8490.
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute … right here where you need us.
From aggressive treatments to state-of-the-art technology, Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute focuses on exceptional care in a warm and welcoming setting.
Every year, thousands of Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute patients receive lifesaving care that includes programs to help with spiritual and emotional healing, and the best chance for a healthy, cancer-free tomorrow.
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, right here, where you need us.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Director of Quality of Life
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute
November 20, 2020
(GENESEE COUNTY, MI) The women of Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club – in the midst of the COVID pandemic – once again broke records in fundraising efforts to help local breast cancer patients. This year the organization raised $171,000!
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI) patients are one recipient of these funds. This year, GHCI will receive $44,000.
“We are so grateful to the women of Warwick Hills who selflessly work throughout the year to help our cancer patients during a most vulnerable time in their lives,” announces Sue Root, director of Quality of Life services at GHCI.
The Pink Par-Tee 501c3 fund, created in 2010, provides financial support to breast cancer patients in active treatment who need help with basic needs such as rent, groceries and utility bills.
“These funds help relieve stress and worry so our patients can focus on healing,” Root finds.
According to Nancy Gignac, chairperson of Pink Par-Tee, “we were able to surpass all fundraising expectations this year because we kept our eyes on the goal, no matter how many obstacles we encountered this year.
“Our motto – ‘Together, we can make a difference,’ truly spoke volumes this year,” she adds. “The passion to help local women undergoing cancer treatment was overwhelming.”
Last year, the Pink Par-Tee group raised nearly $97,000. A portion of this money was donated to GHCI to support its mammogram clinic that is offered free to the community. Funds also went to the Pink Fund, a non-profit breast cancer organization that provides 90-day non-medical cost-of-living expenses to breast cancer patients in Genesee County who are in active treatment.
“In previous years, Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, thanks to Pink Par-Tee funds, received more than 300 breast cancer care gift bags for our breast cancer patients undergoing treatment,” Root says. Chemotherapy bags as well as radiation therapy bags were distributed to our patients. Each contained needed more than $100 in products to help in the healing process – physically and emotionally, Root points out.
“We are so ecstatic to announce that – over the past several years – the Pink Par-Tee organization has provided more than $110,000 in financial support to patients of Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute,” Root adds. “We’ve been able to help countless women and ease their financial burdens.”
Pink Par-Tee began with two young mothers who were members of Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club to honor a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since its beginnings in 2010, the organization has raised close to $1 million – all to help in the fight against breast cancer.
“We conducted a survey of 587 breast cancer survivors who benefitted from Pink Par-Tee funds to see if the money we were raising was making a difference in their lives,” Gignac says. “We learned that about 1/3 of the recipients were more scared about how their treatment would affect their finances rather than their outcome.”
The survey also revealed that 64 percent of breast cancer patients were paying up to $5,000 in out of pocket medical related expenses, 21 percent were paying between $5,000 and $10,000, and 16 percent were hit with more than $20,000 in out of pocket costs.
In addition, 41 percent of the survey respondents said they skipped treatment or medication to save money. Forty percent are still in debt after treatment.
“A diagnosis of breast cancer is devastating for a woman as well as her loved ones,” Gignac notes. “It can drain a family emotionally, physically and financially. Our hope through Pink Par-Tee is to relieve some of this burden.
“We especially want to extend a huge thank you to our donors who helped us realize such a successful fundraising year in a time of such uncertainty.”
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute provides the newest treatments and technology in a warm, welcoming, home-like setting – right here where you need us. Visit ghci.org for more information.
At the time of her diagnosis, Micaela Trevino stated she had no time to deal with a diagnosis of breast cancer. She worked full-time as a third shift sleep center technician, she was a full-time college student studying to become a registered nurse, and she was a single parent raising a 10-year-old son.
Even though her plate had been overflowing for many years, Micaela always managed to schedule an annual mammogram, and perform breast self-exams faithfully every month.
In December 2018, her self-exam looked good, she reports, however, in less than one month, that all changed, and Micaela’s life rapidly turned upside down. During her breast self-exam, she felt a “rock-hard lump the size of a ping pong ball,” she describes.
Around the same time, she fell on the ice outside her car and injured her arm. She was focused on healing from her fall and neglected to schedule an appointment right away to have her doctor check out the lump.
A couple of weeks later, when she saw her family physician (Damayanthi Pandrangi, MD), the doctor ordered a digital mammogram immediately.
As soon as the exam was completed, the radiologist wanted an ultrasound conducted. “I could see the tumor on the ultrasound and I just knew it was cancer,” Micaela reports. “The technician wanted to perform the test again, but before she could, the radiologist came in and told me I had an appointment for a biopsy the next day. They were moving so quickly; I knew it had to be bad news.”
When she met with Dr. Pandrangi after her biopsy, Micaela greeted her by saying, “It’s okay, I know what you are going to tell me. I already know.” Micaela could see the distress on her doctor’s face, knowing she had to confirm the diagnosis.
But the news was even worse. Micaela’s breast cancer was triple negative. This is a very aggressive form of cancer with a high rate of recurrence. The cancer team was assembled quickly – Rizwan Danish, MD, was her medical oncologist; Surgeon Raouf Mikhail, MD, would insert her port; Breast Surgeon Linsey Gold, DO, would conduct the surgery; and Plastic Surgeon Julie Sofer, DO, would perform the reconstructive surgery.
In less than two weeks from the time she received her diagnosis, the treatment plan not only was in place, but Micaela was undergoing chemotherapy treatments at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI).
Initially, she wondered how she was going to fit in her treatments with school, work and home responsibilities, but “I am a determined person and I would make it work,” she says with conviction.
“I lost my hair – it was almost to my waist – but I proudly wore my baldness in public,” she announces. “And I used the three to four hours of treatment time to keep up on my schoolwork! I was disappointed, though. I finished the semester with a 3.8 GPA. I was aiming for a 4.0. The chemotherapy was affecting my study skills,” she notes.
More bad news was thrown at Micaela. “I had a very severe migraine – so bad that I went to the ER on a Saturday night.” Her CT scan was clear, and when she followed up with Dr. Danish on Monday, he diagnosed her with shingles. He stopped the chemotherapy treatments and while Micaela was recovering, she contracted Bell’s Palsy.
A couple of weeks later, after she had recovered from shingles, Dr. Danish decided to move forward with Micaela’s surgery. “He was concerned that if I started my chemotherapy again, it might cause permanent facial paralysis (from Bell’s Palsy),” Micaela explains.
An MRI was conducted prior to her surgery, and Micaela faced bad news once again. The radiologist had found some lesions, suspecting the cancer had spread to her brain. Dr. Danish reassured her that it probably was Leptomeningeal disease, a rare complication of chemotherapy, but he wanted to confirm it through a spinal tap. It would take two weeks before she could see a neurologist, another week before the spinal tap could be scheduled, and one more week before she received the results.
“Now, the only thought on my mind was, ‘am I going to die?’
“I’m 43 years old, I have a 26-year old daughter and a 10-year old son; I can’t ask my daughter to take care of my son … I didn’t expect to be preparing for my death.”
Micaela cried for two weeks straight.
Finally, four long weeks later, the light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter for Micaela. The cancer had not spread. Inflammation from the shingles was causing the lesions and her severe migraines.
“I felt like the entire universe suddenly was lifted off my shoulders,” she sighs with tremendous relief.
The following day, Micaela scheduled her classes for the next semester.
On Sept. 4, Dr. Gold performed a lumpectomy, and on Sept. 5, Micaela started her first day of school. The tumor was undetectable, Dr. Gold reported. The initial chemotherapy treatments at GHCI had worked!
Micaela completed her final seven rounds of chemotherapy and went on to have 25 radiation treatments at GHCI “uneventfully,” she reports happily.
Her last treatment was in February, she is thrilled to announce. “Dr. Danish says I am cancer-free, and my prognosis looks promising. I applied to nursing school at U of M-Flint and I got in!
“Sometimes life takes you on the path you are supposed to go, even though you think you should be heading on a different one,” she reflects.
“I often think, ‘what in the world did I do to deserve this diagnosis? I have no family history of cancer on both sides of the family, I conduct breast self-exams every month and I have a mammogram every year. But I am healthy, and I am alive!
“I am so grateful I found such a great medical team to help me through my diagnosis and treatment,” she announces.
“I pray the cancer never will return, but it is so comforting to know Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute is the place for me to seek care – without question!” she reports.
“I chose to go for my treatments by myself at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute,” she wants to add. “I knew it would be hard on my family to see me receiving treatments. Besides, I had so much support from the clinicians at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute.
“Everyone was wonderful, helpful and kind. They truly are there to help make a patient’s stay as comforting as possible.”
The resources at GHCI were abundant, Micaela quickly learned. A social worker helped her with her finances, and GHCI – through its patient assistance fund – paid some of her bills.
“The enrichment classes offered for patients and their family members were a great way to meet other cancer survivors, share experiences and receive support,” Micaela finds. “It was helpful to be around others who were going through a similar experience.”
Micaela also wants to compliment Dr. Danish and his team. “The office staff was so willing to work around my schedule, they were responsive, and they were so personable and helpful.”
Micaela admits she still gets tired, and “I have ‘chemo brain.’ It takes me longer to study than it used to, but when I set a goal for myself, I will achieve it. Nothing will stand in the way, not even cancer!”
Always looking for the next best treatment option for our patients, Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI) follows an evolution of care approach, which produces thousands of patient success stories year after year.
The radiation oncology team at GHCI offers the most innovative treatments, technology and resources available while continually seeking even better methods to save more lives through employing the latest advancements in cancer care.
Evolutions in breast cancer treatments is one example.
GHCI radiation oncologists use hypofractionated radiation therapy, also known as accelerated whole breast irradiation (AWBI) as the standard of care. Patients receive a larger, more precisely targeted dose of radiation for a shorter amount of time when compared to standard radiation therapy. Traditionally, radiation therapy for breast cancer consisted of five to six weeks of treatment, however, GHCI has reduced this time frame to three to four weeks for the majority of patients with early stage breast cancer, thanks to clinical trials demonstrating equal effectiveness and improvement in side effects. Patients can complete their therapy sooner, safer and more effectively with less costs than conventional treatment.
In addition to hypofractionated radiation therapy, GHCI clinicians also offer a one-to-two-week treatment for breast cancer patients using partial breast irradiation, also known as accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI). This technique replaces whole breast irradiation. A recently reported large, randomized trial (NSABP B-39), showed a less than 5 percent rate of recurrence in the breast for whole breast irradiation and partial breast irradiation at 10 years. (Partial breast irradiation is recommended for selected low risk patients.)
GHCI also offers hypofractionated radiation therapy for prostate cancer patients. This exciting new evidence-based treatment option reduces treatment time from eight weeks to 5 ½ weeks. For select low risk patients, treatment can be as short as one week!
The American Society for Radiation Oncology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Urological Association support hypofractionated radiation therapy as an evidence-based treatment.
Palliative radiation for the treatment of bone metastases also has been reduced from two weeks (10 treatments) to as few as one treatment, thanks to advancements at GHCI.
Small lung tumors, which previously were treated with invasive surgery as a first-line treatment, now often can be treated with stereotactic ablative body radiation (SABR or SBRT), and in as little as three to five treatments (previously six weeks of treatments). Through SABR, extremely precise, very intense doses of radiation is delivered to cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.
GHCI is the only center in Michigan to offer AccuBoost.
This non-invasive, innovative, evolutionary brachytherapy approach is used exclusively for the treatment of breast cancer. It provides the physician with greater control in targeting radiation by immobilizing the breast, allowing the radiation oncologist to deliver localized treatment with even greater precision to the site of the cancer. The combination of breast immobilization, mammographic imaging and radiation shielding provides highly effective results. To learn more about AccuBoost, visit: http://www.accuboost.com/accuboost-for-patients/how-accuboost-works/
GHCI offers the most advanced technology.
The Genesys Hurley Radiation Oncology department offers a full range of radiation therapy options, including external beam radiation – stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), stereotactic body radiosurgery (SBRT), volumetric arc therapy (VMAT), intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and brachytherapy. To learn more about these treatment options, visit: https://ghci.org/radiation-oncology/types-of-treatment/
GHCI is an ACR accredited center.
The American College of Radiology (ACR) is recognized as the gold standard in medical imaging and therapeutic radiation accreditation. Accreditation means patients have the assurance we are providing the highest level of image quality and safety including staff, equipment and quality.
GHCI meets the highest standards of clinical excellence.
GHCI participates in the Michigan Radiation Oncology Quality Consortium (MROQC). We follow a strict set of guidelines based on national guidelines establishing the standard of care for cancer treatment (National Comprehensive Cancer Network, NCCN), and we establish goals to improve quality of care, and best approaches to treatment, as a statewide cooperative network.
To further improve our quality of care, GHCI is enrolled in the Radiation Oncology Incident Learning System, a national database sponsored by the American Society for Radiation Oncology and the American of Physicists in Medicine. Its purpose is to improve patient safety and ensure radiation patients receive the highest quality of care.