Michelle’s Story: A Motion for a Second Opinion

Michelle’s Henry Ford team pursued every lead to confirm an endometrial cancer diagnosis.

When opinions differ, even among the best of doctors, it’s a good idea to keep the conversation going. Can spotting be normal when a woman is going through menopause? One doctor said yes. 

Another doctor ordered a pap smear and ultrasound. Both were normal. Later a biopsy was performed. It uncovered cancer cells.

For Michelle Hunt, a criminal law paralegal, the persistence of the team at Henry Ford made all the difference.

In August 2018, Thomas Buekers, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at Henry Ford performed a total hysterectomy and determined Michelle had stage 2 endometrial cancer.

“Dr. Buekers is a phenomenal doctor. He asks questions and tries to answer my questions. He’s the type of doctor you can confide in, and he looks after my well-being,” says Michelle.

Brachytherapy for endometrial cancer

After healing from the surgery, Michelle had five rounds of brachytherapy, a type of radiation therapy in which radioactive seeds are placed in a cylinder and then inserted into the vagina. The radiation treatment lasted about four minutes after a CT scan confirmed the correct positioning. One of the advantages of brachytherapy is that it reduces the likelihood of radiation side effects. Gratefully, Michelle had none. 

 Her next treatment involved six cycles of chemotherapy, with a three-week break between each treatment. This was the source of side effects: Hair loss, sleep issues, and difficulty concentrating.

 “Chemo brain” caused her to feel tongue tied. “The words you’re looking for aren’t there,” says Michelle. Dr. Buekers has indicated the cognitive effects of chemotherapy should improve after a year.

 “Working on a [criminal] trial requires a lot of attention. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do it right after chemo, so that gave me a chance to heal,” says Michelle, a 52-year-old Oak Park resident. 

 To counteract fatigue and continue working during chemotherapy treatments, Michelle took an hour nap after work, and then went to bed by 7:30 p.m.

 Faith and family played a big role in her recovery. “Sometimes you just have to rise above the bad things and not let them hinder you. The cancer has given me more appreciation of life,” she says.

 “Everyone is more conscious of our family history of cancer. I didn’t know until just before my surgery that my mom had bladder cancer,” she says. Also, test results indicated Michelle has a hereditary factor for cancer, information she shared with her sons and daughter-in-law. 

Regaining stamina, strength with ExCITE

 A few months after chemotherapy ended, Michelle registered in the ExCITE (Exercise and Cancer Integrative Therapy Education) fitness program at Henry Ford. The ExCITE program provides individualized exercise programs for any cancer patient or survivor.

 “You lose a lot of muscle mass during chemotherapy, but the program builds stamina and endurance,” says Michelle, who works out twice a week for 90 minutes each session. Patients are monitored for heart rate as they use the tread mills, stationary bikes, and other machines. “The exercise physiologist is very good at helping patients find a program that’s good for them.” 

 Her goals for the future? Remain cancer free and take better care of myself, she says. “Every time I have an issue with my body, I don’t wait anymore.”

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