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For years, Martha York was concerned about a hardness she noticed in her right breast. She had regular mammograms, but they all had “normal” results. At the encouragement of a good friend and breast cancer survivor, Martha finally sought the opinion of general surgeon Phillip Frantzis, MD.
Dr. Frantzis performed a surgical biopsy and confirmed that Martha had breast cancer. Her Stage 3A, 5cm tumor was of a particular type (invasive lobular carcinoma) that masks itself as breast tissue and does not show up on mammograms or ultrasounds. Martha was immediately started on chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, which would be followed by surgery and radiation therapy. Because she thought she might choose to have breast reconstruction, Martha went out of town for her bilateral mastectomy surgery.
"My experience out of town was not good,” Martha said. “The oncology doctors did not listen well to me or consider my opinion. After my double mastectomy, my surgeon didn’t even come to check on me. I felt like a number." Martha ultimately decided not to have reconstructive surgery. “I just wanted to heal and be active again,” she said.
Opting to have both her chemo and her radiation treatment at Henry Ford Allegiance Health, Martha had a “completely opposite experience,” she said. “From day one, it was great. Henry Ford Allegiance is large enough to have the latest treatment and technology, but it’s small enough to make you feel embraced by people who care. Everyone was compassionate and treated me and my family like gold. They always acknowledged my husband, Steve, and they remembered the names of my children, John and Olivia. Even now, when I return for follow up appointments, I am hugged and celebrated like visiting family.“
“From day one, it was great. Henry Ford Allegiance is large enough to have the latest treatment and technology, but it’s small enough to make you feel embraced by people who care."
-Martha York, breast cancer patient
Martha found the physical environment of the newly renovated Gayle M. Jacob Cancer Center to be “refreshing and very clean,” she said. “The setting is pretty, and it just feels positive.” She especially appreciated that she had a consistent care team, “so I didn’t have to have to repeat my story each time to a stranger.” Martha was also grateful for the assistance of patient navigator nurse Sharon Petrie. “Sharon specializes in breast cancer and is extremely knowledgeable. As a breast cancer survivor herself, she understands the experience,” Martha said. “She showed up for me at every test I had, and she was always helpful and personable in answering my questions.”
The Radiation Oncology team at Henry Ford Allegiance accommodated Martha’s work schedule, so she was able to keep working throughout most of her treatment. “They were always ready when I arrived. I didn’t have to wait or waste time, which really helped with my job,” she recalled.
Less than a year after her cancer surgery, Martha says she is feeling well and “proud of being fit again. I am doing Zumba, weight-lifting, hiking, and biking. ” She is also making time for creative expression – writing a book, playing piano and keyboard for her church, gardening, and drawing with pastels. “Cancer has taught me to rely on my faith in God and to take life in 24-hour increments,” Martha said. “I appreciate my family and friends even more now, and I am grateful for the extreme kindness I am shown.”
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