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After Deidra Latrell Moody received cancer treatment at two different hospitals, she used her experiences to make a difference at Henry Ford’s new cancer pavilion, now open in Detroit. What did she want most for other cancer patients in the new facility? Comfort – starting with the chairs.
Before coming to Henry Ford, 45-year-old Deidra went to another health system and was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She had just earned a bachelor’s degree, and her son was leaving Michigan to tour with the Harlem Globetrotters. “I immediately became a fighter,” says Deidra. “Something on the inside of me was saying ‘tumor get out!’”
After Deidra had a lumpectomy and while she was in the middle of chemotherapy, her physician said cancer may be hiding. She needed a mastectomy.
“I was devastated,” says Deidra, who works as a word processor for the Michigan Department of Corrections. “I was totally baffled. I asked for further testing, but the doctor refused. She was adamant about a mastectomy.”
“I felt we had a great bond, but trust had been broken,” says Deidra. Family members, friends and her pastor pressed her to get a second opinion. “My uncle said, ‘Henry Ford is one of the top hospitals in Michigan. Why didn’t you go there?’”
While Deidra didn’t want to get a second opinion – it meant more imaging and other tests – she wanted to “prove that what the doctor said wasn’t true.”
“Even though it takes more effort, we always recommend second opinions for cancer patients,” says Dr. Bensenhaver. “Information overload is common. It’s important to build confidence in a proposed treatment plan.”
Deidra had already responded to the chemotherapy, so the invasive ductal carcinoma was downstaged to stage 2. She had a very large lumpectomy and cancer margins that Dr. Bensenhaver recalls were “too close for comfort. She needed a repeat operation to ensure all the cancer cells had been removed.”
“If she had another lumpectomy, the results could be deforming. So, we offered her oncoplastic surgery to reduce and reshape her large breasts and control the cancer. “If additional margin concerns were found after this operation, then a mastectomy be done,” says Dr. Bensenhaver. Following surgery, Deidra would receive radiation treatment, standard for breast conserving therapy.
“She had a fantastic cosmetic and cancer outcome,” says Dr. Bensenhaver. “We were able to successfully control the margins and give Deidra the reduction and lift.”
“I’m very passionate about my journey – it’s had its ups and downs. But Henry Ford has been nothing but exceptional, and Dr. Bensenhaver is the sweetest lady ever,” says Deidra.
“Deidra has been highly active in her care and has been a wonderful asset to other cancer patients who feel lost and scared,” says Dr. Bensenhaver. Deidra organized a support group, called Remnant, for women whose husbands left them because of cancer.
“I’ve always been a helper who wants to solve problems,” says Deidra. “Now, I use my experiences from both hospitals to make the cancer journey easier for patients.”
Part of her mission included joining Henry Ford Cancer Institute’s Patient and Family Advisory Council. One of the biggest tasks in front of the council was to provide feedback to help Henry Ford design a comfortable, healing environment for patients in the new Detroit cancer pavilion.
Deidra and her fellow members of the Patient and Family Advisory Council reviewed everything inside the new pavilion from paint colors and furniture to room layout, food selection and other amenities. They also encouraged the designers to include spaces that allowed for meditation and relaxation for patients and visitors.
The council’s focus was clear: Infuse comfort into every space within the new 187,000-square-foot facility.
“If the room is fabulous, it changes your experience and makes you and your guest feel welcomed,” says Deidra.” I got really excited about the chairs. They have high backs and arm rests, like living room furniture. The earth-tone paint makes the area warmer, and the ceiling-to-floor windows give a wide view of the city. There’s even a quiet space for people to be spiritual.”
“I wanted to make sure the cancer pavilion has a homey feeling,” says Deidra. Likewise, home cooking and comfort food at the pavilion was a top priority of the council.
“Look, nobody is going to enjoy being treated for cancer,” says Deidra. “But this new building is different. The furnishings, great staff, amenities, quiet rooms and food – those experiences are going to make people comfortable about being there. When patients come in, they’ll think: ‘Someone took time and effort to make sure I’m comfortable.’”
As for Deidra’s cancer journey, she is happy to have had clean scans for the last five years. She continues taking tamoxifen, exercises, eats well and plans to stay in remission.
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