Mary Ann Johnson had always kept up with her annual mammograms. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic forced an unexpected delay.
She was two months past due when she went in for a 3D mammogram. The test indicated an abnormal lump in her breast that needed further investigation.
“My biopsy result came back positive for breast cancer,” Mary Ann shares. “During a follow-up visit, Dr. Patel explained what treatment options were available. She told me that we can treat this, and I felt assured that everything would be OK.”
Mita Patel, MD, is a breast surgeon in our Lorain, OH market. She stresses the importance of mammograms because early-caught breast cancers are often treatable with a higher chance of cure.
“The American Society of Breast Surgeons recommends yearly screening mammography after the age of 40 for normal-risk patients,” Dr. Patel shares. “Many patients benefit from 3D mammography as it can detect masses better in women who have denser breasts.”
Once Dr. Patel met with Mary Ann following her diagnosis, they came up with a plan.
“Dr. Patel recommended a lumpectomy,” Mary Ann says. “She performed the surgery shortly afterward and removed the cancer along with three lymph nodes. Afterwards, all the pathology came back negative for cancer. I would highly recommend Dr. Patel. She had excellent bedside manner and is a great surgeon.
After this procedure, Mary Ann was referred to Dung Nguyen, MD, PhD for radiation therapy treatments.
“He was wonderful,” Mary Ann reveals. “Dr. Nguyen let me know what my treatment plan was going to be in a professional manner, yet with humor at the right moments. I was given 16 radiation therapy treatments. Dr. Nguyen and the entire radiation therapy team made me feel that everything was going to be OK.”
Dr. Nguyen adds that, “it is a privilege to be part of the oncology team at Mercy Health – Lorain Cancer Center. Dr. Patel’s office is 10 steps away from mine; so, we run into each other many times in the course of a day. This means we discuss patient care all the time, not just in the formal setting of the tumor board. The medical oncologists… are literally just down the hall, so coordinating care is a cinch. To take care of a patient with emergent need for chemo services means walking down the hall and asking, ‘This patient needs to be seen ASAP; can you see them today?’ and it is done. Our dedicated radiation staff puts patient care first. Radiation services can be provided the same day, or within 24 hours, if needed.”
Following radiation therapy treatments, Mary Ann was referred to AON at the Hematology Oncology Center at Mercy Health — Cancer Center where she met her oncologist, Jay Sidloski, DO.
“Dr. Sidloski did some further testing and performed an exam. I was told I would not need chemotherapy,” Mary Ann says.
Overall, Mary Ann feels her care team of Dr. Patel, Dr. Nguyen and Dr. Sidlowski came together and created the best care plan possible. Everything was coordinated and all team members had a say in her treatment.
“Also, when at home, if I had a question, I didn’t have to sort through phone menus or wait days for an answer,” Mary Ann shares. “I simply called them, and a team member answered! If they could not answer my question immediately, they would pass on my question to the appropriate person and I would receive a call back very quickly. It was so nice being able to communicate without having to jump through hoops.”
Mary Ann also shares that the team’s social worker, Vikki Howard, was excellent. She contacted Mary Ann right from the beginning to make sure she was OK and gave me information about what services her department provided.
“She also helped my husband with his questions and gave him support,” Mary Ann shares. “Vikki made it clear she would be there whenever we needed her.”
Mary Ann and her husband so appreciated that the cancer center was close to their home. After each of her treatments, the pair would visit a different area coffee shop for a treat. Sometimes they would also take a quiet moment in the serenity garden and labyrinth maze (pictured above) just outside the cancer center.
“No one wants breast cancer, but my experience has been positive,” Mary Ann says. “On my last day of radiation therapy, I rang the bell in the lobby to signal the end of my treatment! That day, my husband and I brought our coffees to the cancer center and enjoyed the beautiful serenity garden, walked the maze and thought how lucky we were to have had such a great team working to make me well.”
And for those women who are currently due for a mammogram, Mary Ann urges them not to wait.
“I never should have had breast cancer – I don’t have a single family member that has had breast cancer. However, I have always had my regularly scheduled mammograms. Early detection is one of the most important factors in beating cancer. It is so important to get your mammograms every year.”