Pat Gruener of Clio, began her cancer journey in May 2018 when “my life was put on hold.” She was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, her calendar was packed with activities – from golf to travel to family events. But, suddenly, it all was erased and replaced with doctors’ appointments and treatments.
What kept her sane and somewhat calm through the next year was Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI) and her many new-found friends who provided support, encouragement and the best care possible,” Gruener announces.
“I felt at home immediately,” she says about GHCI. “I was so well taken care of.”
Gruener retold her story to a crowd of more than 200 cancer survivors who recently gathered at the Flint Institute of Arts to celebrate life. The event was hosted by Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute.
“We are celebrating the thousands of cancer survivors in our community who successfully have fought this disease,” announces Sue Root, director of Quality of Life at GHCI, who organized the event. “It truly is a gathering of support, inspiration and happiness.
“Our celebration is a time for cancer survivors and their loved ones to stand united in support of one another, to feel empowered and encouraged when looking into the future. It is very heartwarming to see so many survivors in one place, sharing their stories and enjoying their cancer-free life.”
The night of the celebration Gruener announced that her last treatment was completed that same day, and she was in remission. “Now I can start filling my calendar again with the things I love to do,” she smiled, and continued to smile the entire evening.
“Cancer is life-changing physically, emotionally and spiritually, but it encourages new relationships with new friends who will support each other for a lifetime,” she shares. “Keeping spirits up is such an important part of recovery. I’m so grateful for my Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute family.”
According to Paul Kocheril, MD, GHCI medical director and radiation oncologist, “Cancer treatments aren’t perfect, but the good news is five-year survival rates nationally have gone up. Two thirds of patients diagnosed with cancer survive at least five years. And there’s more good news: cancer deaths have declined 27 percent over the past 25 years.”
The survivor celebration included entertainment by StoweGood, a musical duo who perform uplifting music and share inspirational messages.
To learn more about the services of Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, go to www.GHCI.org call the institute at 810.762.8226.
Clio resident Pat Gruener called herself the new kid on the block when she met three new friends – all breast cancer survivors – at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute (GHCI) more than a year and a half ago. Pat received the news she had breast cancer and was starting her first treatments.
“I felt at home immediately,” Pat says of Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. I felt so well taken care of.”
Pat’s story began when she discovered a lump in her breast but ignored it. “I was getting over the shingles and figured it was part of that. When I saw my family doctor, he sent me for a mammogram right away. I had two types of cancer in my right breast. And, yes, I was shocked,” she announces. “No one in my family had cancer, but it happened to me. I felt numb.”
The first time she walked into Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute for her chemotherapy treatments, a stranger came up to Pat and greeted her with a hug. “And then I met all of my wonderful new friends who have given me so much support,” she reports. “I was new to this, I hadn’t had my surgery yet, but I was feeling pretty good because of the support and encouragement I got right away.
“I admit the chemotherapy initially kicked me in the hind end,” Pat says. “I had to go to the first few treatments in a wheelchair; I could barely walk.
“I love to golf and I am a strong person, but this journey was not one I was ready for.
“My life was put on hold for more than a year. My calendar of activities quickly was erased and replaced with doctor appointments and treatments.”
Pat started a bucket list of all the things she wanted to do after her surgery. “It gave me hope. It was something to look forward to, something to be positive about. Disney World was on the list and so was fly fishing. I’ve never tried it before,” she laughs.
Pat acknowledges that she learned something new everyday when she was with her new found friends at GHCI. “I’m a member of a club I don’t want to belong to, but I am so glad there is one,” her smile never waivers. “At the time, I had no hair and no breasts, but I was happy.
“Cancer is life-changing physically, emotionally and spiritually, but it encourages new relationships with new friends who will support each other for a lifetime. Keeping spirits up is such an important part of recovery. I’m so grateful for my Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute family,” Pat says.
She completed her last treatment on the same day as Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute’s cancer survivor celebration at the Flint Institute of Arts in August. She spoke to a crowd of some 300 people – mostly breast cancer survivors – and retold her story of hope and happiness.
“It’s so important to keep your spirits up, it’s such a critical part of your recovery,” she announced to the group.
“Now I can start filling my calendar again with the things I love to do,” she beamed.
Pat continues her relationship with GHCI by attending various free classes and programs offered at the institute, serving as a volunteer for GHCI, and encouraging others to do the same.
“As we get older, we often dismiss symptoms of something serious as part of the aging process,” Pat points out. “Don’t let what happened to me happen to you. Don’t wait.”
To learn more about the services of Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, go to www.GHCI.org or call the institute at 810.762.8226
The Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute continues to provide the most advanced cancer treatment services, technologies and programs available in one convenient, close-to-home location.
“When I found out I had breast cancer, Marcia Schmidt (breast health navigator for Hurley Medical Center) provided me with a wealth of information and resources. She invited me and my entire family to meet with her to talk about what was going to happen to me – all in terms we could understand easily.
“I was still in shock when I heard the diagnosis. My husband had passed away 11 months earlier and I was still grieving over his loss. I didn’t get my mammogram when I was supposed to, and when I did, after a biopsy, it showed I was positive for invasive ductal carcinoma. The cancer had gone into my lymph nodes. I had 28 radiation treatments and four chemotherapy treatments. I was so afraid. Randy (Anita’s husband) would have been my support person. We had been together since high school.”
Instead, she found support, love and encouragement from other women who were undergoing treatment at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. She immediately befriended Betty and Jeanette, and they have been close friends ever since.
Linsey Gold, DO, FACS, FACOS, breast surgeon, conducted Anita’s surgery. “I love her!” Anita exclaims. “My daughter had a lymph node removed a couple of years ago and Dr. Gold was her surgeon. She was fantastic. I asked my family doctor about her, and he said she was very good and very informative. When I met her, I felt like there was no time limit with her. I trusted her completely.”
In hindsight, Anita admits there were clues leading up to her diagnosis of breast cancer. The size of her breast suddenly began growing larger, but she ignored it.
When she talks about Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, Anita describes the staff as “my family. They provided so much comfort and reassurance.”
Anita is cancer-free.
Betty Echlin (Mt. Morris)
Betty found what she calls a small pimple under her arm but wasn’t too worried about it until she saw a swollen lymph node. She received the news in May 2016: Betty had triple negative breast cancer, and so the journey began for her … five months of chemotherapy at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, 30 radiation treatments and another six months of chemotherapy.
“I knew a lot about cancer because all of my family members had been stricken with this disease,” Betty explains. “I was in total surrender; I was so worn out because of what I had gone through with family members, but I continued to plow through my days one day at a time. On my good days I participated in life, even when I didn’t want to.”
Betty was referred to Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute by Marcia Schmidt, the breast health navigator for Hurley. She recommended Betty get involved in the many programs and classes the institute offers free for cancer patients.
“I had to leave my job and so I had plenty of time on my hands,” Betty finds. I’m very glad Marcia recommended the programs at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. They filled a void in my life, provided me with so much useful information and helped me transition into my new life as a breast cancer survivor.
“I use my faith and Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute for my strength. I have met so many wonderful people through my treatment and classes. We pray for each other and if someone has a scare, we are there for each other.”
Betty chose Raouf Mikhail. MD, a surgical oncologist, to perform her double mastectomy. “I was told he is the best surgeon in Genesee County; he came highly recommended. I was happy with him. He is a gentle and compassionate man.
“Doctors can tell you what to expect, and they can put your body back together, but they cannot heal your soul. The staff at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, along with the wonderful new friends I have met at the institute, have helped me with the healing process.”
After her treatments were over, Betty was left with anxiety and worry. What if the cancer returned?
“I was able to talk about it with the staff and my new friends, and they understood what I was feeling. Families get tired of listening to us; they need a break, and I didn’t want to worry them more,” Betty explains. That’s when her friends at Genesys Hurley Institute could fill that gap.
“It truly is a journey, a very long journey,” Betty reflects. “I expected to be in hospice, but, instead, I was back on the golf course. I’ve got a whole new pair of glasses and I see a lot of gratitude through them. The hardest part is the anxiety … wondering if the cancer will come back.
“Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute is such a compassionate place; someone always was there to help me … on good days and bad ones. It was OK to cry; they knew I needed it. They understood.”
When Betty was asked to serve as a volunteer at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, she said “yes” without hesitation. “It’s my turn to help others and provide hugs and a shoulder to cry on.
“I felt so at home at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. I come here to cry, laugh, complain, and cry again. I can just be myself.”
Today, Betty is proud to carry her message – get your mammogram. “I delayed mine. When in doubt, check it out. Spread the message. Save someone’s life.”
Jeanette Hildreth (Burton)
In 2012, Jeanette went in for her annual mammogram. Some calcifications were found. A few months later, she felt a lump.
“I was taking care of my 85 year-old mother and didn’t follow up with my doctor as soon as I should have,” she notes. “Those little dots that were calcifications turned into cancer. My family doctor thought Dr. Gold (Linsey Gold, DO, FACS, FACOS) would be a good fit for me because I ask a lot of questions, and Dr. Gold takes a lot of time with each of her patients.”
Dr. Gold moved quickly. “She came in early – at 7:30 am – so she could see me. She had a surgery scheduled at 9:30 am and she almost was late for it. That’s how much time she spent with my husband and me,” Jeanette was happy to say.
“She called me on a Saturday morning at 9 am to tell me the results of my pathology report. She was on vacation in Florida with her family. She said she knew I didn’t want to wait until Monday for the results.
“If I had to have cancer, I’m glad I had such a great medical team. Everyone I needed was there for me. I met so many new friends at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute,” she adds. “We understand each other, we finish each other’s sentences; we think alike. We are in this together.”
Jeanette is happy to report that she is cancerr-free.
Pat Gruener is the new kid on the block. She received her diagnosis of breast cancer in May and is now undergoing her treatments at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute where she met Anita, Betty and Jeanette who quickly embraced her.
“I felt at home immediately,” Pat says of Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. I feel so well taken care of.”
Pat discovered a lump but ignored it. “I was getting over the shingles and figured it was part of that. When I saw my family doctor, he sent me for a mammogram right away. I had two types of cancer in my right breast.”
The first time she walked into Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute for treatment, a stranger came up to Pat and greeted her with a hug. “And then I met all of my wonderful new friends who have given me so much support,” she reports. “I am very new to this – I haven’t had my surgery yet, but I feel good so far, thanks to all of the support and encouragement I’ve gotten.
“As we get older, we often dismiss symptoms of something serious as part of the aging process,” Pat points out. “Don’t let what happened to me happen to you. Don’t wait.”
Pat started a bucket list of all the things she wants to do after her surgery. “It gives me hope. It is something I look forward to, something to be positive about. I plan to go to Disney World in February, and fly fishing is on my list. I’ve never done it before.”
Pat acknowledges that she learns something new everyday when she is with her new found friends.
“I’m a member of a club I don’t want to belong to, but I am so glad there is one.”
Anita, Betty, Jeanette and Pat all volunteer at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute.
(FLINT, MI) The American College of Radiology (ACR) has awarded Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute a full, three-year accreditation for its radiation oncology services. The ACR conducted an intensive on site survey to determine if the institute met the high standards set by the national organization.
Receiving the gold seal of approval from the ACR represents the highest level of quality and patient safety possible. Only facilities meeting the specific practice guidelines and technical standards of ACR earn accreditation. Board certified radiation oncologists and medical physicists conduct the on site survey. They review patient care, safety and outcomes; patient satisfaction scores; treatment planning and appropriateness of treatment; qualifications of the cancer institute’s personnel; the facility’s equipment; quality control procedures and quality assurance programs.
Surveyors also toured Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute and interviewed the medical director, the medical physicist, managers and other key personnel. They also reviewed patient records, quality improvement programs, peer review activities, and policies and procedures.
Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute must maintain continuous quality and practice improvement throughout the three-year accreditation period.
The ACR is the nation’s oldest and most widely accepted radiation oncology accrediting organization. The organization has awarded full accreditation to only 700 facilities in the US.
“We are very proud to announce we received this gold seal of approval from the American College of Radiology,” reports Suzy Hosler, executive director of the Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. “Accreditation assures the community they are in the most capable hands when seeking our center for treatment. We not only met the high standards set by the ACR, but we exceeded them.”
From aggressive prevention programs and early detection services to the application of leading edge diagnostics and treatment techniques, the Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute brings patients the hope of a brighter tomorrow. For more information, visit www.ghci.org.
During National Volunteers Week, it seems most appropriate to spotlight three patients who chose to volunteer at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute: Pat Gaines, Kathy Bierek and Millie Jones.
Here are their stories.
Pat, a 25-year cancer survivor, is happy to report her last surgery was two years ago. “Twenty five family members have been diagnosed with colon cancer,” she begins her story. Pat, and her 25 relatives, are victims of Lynch syndrome, a dominant genetic condition that carries with it a high risk of colon cancer and many other cancers.
Under the continuous care of Rizwan Danish, MD, medical oncologist with Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, Pat speaks very confidently about his skills, compassion and his true sense of caring. “If there was a specialist he felt could help me, that was where he wanted me to be,” she says. “Lynch syndrome causes many complications, and Dr. Danish wanted me to have the best people caring for me. But, I’ve always returned to Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute for my outpatient treatments. Dr. Danish and the staff are so supportive, and the programs and classes offered at the institute have made such a big difference in my quality of life, and my physical as well as emotional healing.”
About three years ago, Pat was asked to help open a gift shop inside Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. She, along with Kathy and Millie, not only worked together to open the shop, but they also oversee its daily operations.
Kathy, the second member of the gift shop volunteer team, learned “by accident” that she had cancer. In 2012, during her annual checkup, a suspicious spot showed up on her chest X-ray. After a CT scan and a biopsy, Kathy was told she had a very rare form of cancer in her trachea.
The day of her surgery, her husband had a stroke. She doesn’t talk much about her cancer and her surgery; she was focused on her husband and his recovery. “I am so grateful for the support groups Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute offers. They helped me through some pretty difficult days.”
After her surgery, Kathy needed 31 radiation treatments at GHCI, followed by many follow up visits. Haesook Kim, MD, radiation oncologist at the institute, oversaw her treatment every step of the way.
“She is an incredible physician and woman,” Kathy says. “When Dr. Kim retired last year, she spent over a year searching for the perfect replacement, someone who would love her patients just as much as she did. It was that important to her that her patients remained in capable and loving hands. Dr Paul Kocheril was the physician she chose. He brings all of the same skills and compassion of Dr. Kim.
“Through my treatments at GHCI and my participation in many of the programs the institute offers free of charge to its patients, I have learned so much, I have grown so much, I have made so many friendships and I’ve been able to help others through their hardships,” Kathy is proud to say.
“I feel at home here (GHCI). There’s always something or someone who needs some help and I am grateful I can share my story and my support.”
When Kathy was asked to volunteer at the gift shop, she didn’t hesitate to say yes. “I wanted to give something back to those who were with me every step of the way during my cancer treatments,” she announces. “Everyone at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute is so wonderful. I feel like they are my family.”
From working at the gift shop, Kathy has learned “I can provide support to other patients undergoing treatment. When I tell them I am a cancer survivor, it seems to relieve their fear and anxiety. One day, a patient came in and was in tears. She felt her life was over when she received her diagnosis. We talked for awhile, and she left feeling hope again. Helping her also gave me more strength,” Kathy finds. “So many patients come into the gift shop and ask us to pray for them. We do a lot of praying around here.”
“Volunteering at the gift shop takes my mind off my troubles,” reports Millie, who proudly claims herself as one of the three musketeers in the gift shop. She finds the programs GHCI offers for patients invaluable. “After class, I am totally ready to face whatever is in front of me.
Millie was introduced to the GHCI when she learned eight years ago she had breast cancer. “I went in for my regular check up and, after additional testing, I was diagnosed.”
Her family physician – Melinda Wheatley, MD – immediately referred Millie to Linsey Gold, DO, a surgical oncologist. “She is the best of the best,” Millie announces. Millie required extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and, today, she is feeling great. She describes her cancer as “just another problem in my life. I had so many support people and so many fantastic doctors at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute how could I not feel positive,” she says. “And I love my new short hairdo, and my new natural hair color,” she laughs. “I had long, beautiful hair down to my shoulders before my chemotherapy treatments. At first, I was horrified when I started losing my hair, but now I embrace my new look,” she smiles as she runs her fingers through her short bob.
Millie notes that it was her husband who had much more difficulty dealing with her diagnosis and treatment. “I assured him I was in a wonderful place for my care and was surrounded by skilled people and plenty of support to help me through my recovery. Everyone I have met at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute is compassionate and will take the time to listen.
“I’m a cancer survivor and I am going to live!” she announces.
Kathy quickly chimes in: “I just celebrated my 74th birthday; I don’t wait for a birthday to celebrate my life. Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute is a place full of hope.”
Pat shares the same sentiments as Kathy and Millie. “The team here has their heart in everything they do every day. We are constantly surrounded by warmth. When I say the people here care, I want to emphasize that they really, sincerely care. I have been in many facilities for my cancer care and nowhere even comes close to what Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute gives to its patients.”
Cancer survivor Bob Moore is a man of very few words – so few that he requested his sister, Terry, tell the story of his diagnosis, treatment and experience as a patient at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute.
When asked to share his thoughts about his journey as a cancer victim, the Mt. Morris resident simply says, “I feel fantastic,” and turned to Terry to do what she does best – speak on behalf of her older brother.
Two years ago, when Bob learned he had cancer, he once again had very little to say. “Am I going to die,” were his first and only words. Fortunately, Terry was at his side and was able to get the full story.
Bob initially thought he had a couple of mosquito bites on his neck, but when Terry – a retired nurse – checked them, she found they were hard to the touch. She knew her brother should see his doctor. After a visit to Bob’s family physician and a referral for a biopsy, his surgeon (Abdelmajid Jondy, MD) found five lumps that required a biopsy. A few days later, the diagnosis was in: Bob had Stage 4 lymphoma.
“Bob looked like a deer in headlights when he heard the news,” Terry recalls that day clearly. “I told him, ‘you will not go through this alone,’” and Terry was good on her word.
In fact, she wrote a book about her observations during Bob’s chemotherapy treatments at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, in hopes her stories will uplift others going through their cancer diagnosis, treatment and healing.
On his first day at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, Bob was still in a state of shock and his stress level was very high. The only thought on his mind was, “am I going to die?” He didn’t talk with anyone that day.
The staff immediately knew what to do to ease Bob’s fears.
“They were so wonderful and welcoming,” Terry points out. “They knew exactly how to connect with Bob. They knew when to joke with him, when he wanted to be alone, when he needed someone to hold his hand, and what to say on days when he was down.”
It didn’t take Bob long to feel comfortable and confident at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute.
“Believe it or not, Bob started opening up, not just with the staff, but with other patients,” Terry noticed. “He even welcomed new patients and tried to help them feel less apprehensive. Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute provided such a warm, peaceful place where patients could feel safe and secure. It was so comforting to see Bob feeling positive and happy.”
And through it all, Terry was at his side, not only supporting her brother, but also capturing – through words and illustrations – the journey of cancer and all of the thoughts, feelings and emotions she sensed during Bob’s experience.
Bob’s last day at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute was Feb. 23, 2017.
“Bob is such a kind, soft spoken, gentle soul,” Terry shares. “He didn’t, and still does not, want to talk about this experience. He had one goal – to get on with his life.”
And, today, more than a year after his final treatment, Bob has resumed his usual daily routine – taking care of chores around his house, eating lunch at the same restaurant in Mt. Morris every day, and spending the afternoon helping neighbors with odd jobs.
“He always says to me, ‘my life is moving ahead; I don’t need to talk about it (his cancer). It’s behind me now,’” Terry notes.
This diagnosis really threw an unexpected curve ball in Bob’s life, Terry reflects. “My brother never had been sick a day in his life. He worked as the maintenance manager at St. Mary’s Church until he retired, and he said he expected to live until he was at least 85.”
In August, Bob will celebrate birthday #73, and, if he continues to follow the instructions from his medical team at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute, age 85 shouldn’t be a problem.
“The doctors, nurses and everyone on the treatment team at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute were so knowledgeable and provided such superior care,” Terry announces.
“It takes special people to deal with patients like Bob, and we found those individuals at Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute.
“Through their actions, they relieved my brother’s fears, they expressed empathy at the exact right times, and they made the treatment center feel like his second home. All that Bob wanted was his life back, and they gave it back to him. They have a goal to make every single patient feel like family and it certainly worked.”
Terry has since published her book and tells her stories as often as she can. For details, call the institute at 810-762-8226.