Surviving Well: Christine Nelson-Neudert, Breast Cancer

Christine NelsonOriginally from Germany, Christine Nelson-Neudert moved to Denver several years ago when her husband was offered a job. For Christine, her husband and their daughter, family is everything.

So when Christine was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after moving to the United States, she began a journey that would depend on the support of her family like never before.

It started when Christine noticed a tiny amount of pain – a pulling sensation – under her arm. Erring on the side of caution, Christine decided to have it checked out right away, and an initial exam found a hard lump. Christine was sent to the Rose Breast Center for a mammogram and to meet with Ingrid Van Den Abbeele, the Rose breast nurse navigator.

Though the mammogram detected the lump, Rose Breast Center medical director Dr. John Lewin decided they needed to perform another exam.

After Dr. Lewin began the biopsy, he spent an hour-and-a-half trying to get a good tissue sample as there were so many areas to examine. Christine even remembers needing a second dose of numbing medication.

Three days later, Dr. Lewin called to explain that they had found cancer in the tissue sample. Within three days, Christine was sent to get an MRI and was scheduled for an appointment immediately after with Rose breast surgeon Dr. Barbara Schwartzberg.

When they met, Christine recalls Dr. Schwartzberg saying that they had been talking about her all morning.

“I thought, ‘Oh, because I’m a foreigner?’” says Christine. After discussing the details of her cancer, Christine realized what the medical team had been talking about that morning. “It was like an unfolding nightmare, in slow motion. And I understood then, it wasn’t about me being a foreigner—they had discussed what to do.”

Christine’s cancer was unusual in that it was like a web—and everywhere. Dr. Schwartzberg explained that in years of breast cancer work, Christine was her seventh patient with this type of cancer.

“They said it’s a scary, insidious cancer,” Christine says.

When they sent her to get a bone scan, Christine and her family finally welcomed some good news. Her bones and organs were clean and free of the disease. She was told that at the size that her cancer was, it’s a miracle that it couldn’t find another organ to settle down in.

Within 10 days, Christine had a mastectomy. During surgery, it was discovered that Christine’s cancer had spread to her lymph nodes as well, so Dr. Schwartzberg removed the affected nodes. Despite this, Christine recovered quickly and felt good within two weeks of the operation. After the healing process, they started chemotherapy right away with Rose oncologist Dr. Dev Paul.

At the same time, Dr. Schwartzberg began to coordinate with Rose reconstructive surgeon Dr. Philippe Capraro.

“Dr. Schwartzberg…. I felt like she was like a conductor in an orchestra,” says Christine. “Dr. Schwartzberg is, for me, a bright, strong, positive, energetic person who is dedicated to what she does, and she wants to do it to perfection.”

During Christine’s treatment, another complication arose. Because of her visa, she had to leave the United States after her chemotherapy. She had radiation therapy in Germany, and eventually returned to the United States to have a second mastectomy due to the risk of developing breast cancer in her other breast. She continues to work with the team at Rose, including Dr. Capraro who is helping to coordinate her reconstructive surgery.

For Christine, her support group has been an essential asset to her treatment. Between her medical team and—of course—her family, Christine has endured and grown stronger with time. She reminds others who are experiencing similar hardships to stay positive.

“One of my biggest lessons was, you have once in a while to be lucky,” she says.

The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Christine is our survivor for February.

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Meet Rose’s DAISY Award Winner for January – Fiona Bendiak!

Fiona unwraps her DAISY Award

Fiona unwraps her DAISY Award.

Congratulations to Fiona Bendiak on winning the Rose DAISY Award for January! Fiona works in the postpartum unit on Rose’s 3rd floor. As a nurse who cares for patients who have just welcomed a new baby into their family, Fiona’s job is exciting to say the least. But her role at Rose does not stop there. When complications and concerns arise after childbirth, part of Fiona’s job as a medical professional is to comfort the family–and when one family feared that their newborn may have an airway problem, that’s just what she did. One of Fiona’s supervisors speaks about her attentiveness to her patients that day:

“[I] worked with her today and [I] must say she was fabulous with parents! It was thought the baby could have an airway problem. The family was scared. Fiona took time to be with them. They trusted her. [She] told them what they needed to hear. [She is] a strong, compassionate advocate.”

Fiona's supervisors congratulating her on her accomplishment.

Fiona’s supervisors congratulating her on her accomplishment.

Fiona’s clear understanding of a nurse’s role as not only a medical professional, but a source of knowledge, security and comfort to the patient is why she is Rose’s DAISY Award winner for January. Congratulations to Fiona and all of the 3rd floor at Rose! And thank you for your dedication to our patients!


If you want to nominate a compassionate Rose nurse for the DAISY Award, please contact us through our website or look for DAISY Award nomination forms around the hospital. The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses was born to honor the skillful and compassionate care provided by nurses. DAISY stands for Diseases Attacking the Immune System, and nurses who receive the DAISY Award are honored in a number of ways. They receive a certificate, a DAISY Award pin and a beautiful hand-crafted sculpture entitled A Healer’s Touch. The winner’s department is also recognized with a banner to display and Cinnabon® cinnamon rolls.

Posted in Maternity and Labor, Patient Care, What's Happening at Rose, Women's Health | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surviving Well: Astacia Walsh, Recurrent Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

www.RenditionStudios.com, Laurie@RenditionStudios.com, 720.560.1611

Astacia Walsh is a bright and down-to-earth person. She’s a joy to talk to, and her tenacious personality is inspiring. When she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the news was unexpected. Despite the shock of finding out that she had cancer, Astacia and her care team got to work right away.

It started when Astacia went to see Rose allergy and immunology specialist Dr. Mark Ebadi. During the appointment, a scan detected an obstruction in her chest. Shortly after, she was sent to Rose oncologist Dr. Alan Feiner where she was diagnosed with recurrent Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“Dr. Feiner is just an awesome, wonderful doctor,” she says. She began her treatment with Dr. Feiner within the first week after her diagnosis.

In addition to surgery and specimen collection, Astacia underwent chemotherapy treatment once every two weeks, for three hours each time. After six months of chemotherapy, she was grateful to find that she still wasn’t experiencing any significant side effects.

“It wasn’t horrible,” she says of her chemotherapy.

After treatment, a PET scan showed promising results. But just five months later, the cancer came back. This time they would try a new form of treatment–stem cell transplant.

A doctor at Rose’s sister hospital, Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, would perform the autologous transplantation.

www.RenditionStudios.com, Laurie@RenditionStudios.com, 720.560.1611The first step, Astacia explains, is for doctors/surgeons to remove her own stem cells. Once removed, an intensive chemotherapy regimen is administered. Finally, the stem cells are reintroduced into the body where they can begin the healing process.

For Astacia, her intensive chemotherapy took place during the first week of June 2014. Her stem cells were reintroduced during the second week of June, and she has been healing since then. On the first of August, she returned to work.

“It’s a nice kind of notice,” she says of the attention she receives at work. The thoughtfulness and concern of others is a comforting source of support, she says.

“I just love Dr. Feiner,” says Astacia. She credits her medical team for providing top-notch care.

Given the complexity of her treatment, it is important that doctors and surgeons at various facilities work together to coordinate with each other.

“Dr. Feiner has been pretty awesome at keeping doctors on task,” she says joyfully. She appreciates how smart and involved Dr. Feiner is, explaining that at one point he researched medications to find something that would help with the inexplicable itching she was experiencing. It was the extra amount of effort that meant so much to her.

However, Astacia does have some advice for anyone who might be experiencing something similar. In addition to receiving quality care, she’s learned that her own positivity can have a profound impact on her battle with cancer.

“Listen to what [the doctors/surgeons] say might happen, but stay positive,” she says.

The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Astacia is our survivor for January.

www.RenditionStudios.com, Laurie@RenditionStudios.com, 720.560.1611

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Surviving Well: Christopher Milne, Burkitt’s Lymphoma

Christopher Milne is a Colorado native, so naturally he enjoys the outdoors—hiking and climbing are among his favorite pastimes. He roots for the Denver Broncos and the Colorado Avalanche.

He is happily married, optimistic and easy to talk to. But these enduring characteristics were tested when Christopher was diagnosed with Stage 4 Burkitt’s lymphoma, a very aggressive form of cancer.

“Don’t give up,” he encourages, when asked what advice he would share.

Christopher’s personal battle with cancer began in August 2011 when he started experiencing back pains, seemingly out of nowhere. A bulge was discovered in one of his disks, but the initial treatment yielded no results.

In September of the same year, Christopher started seeing double and his jaw, chin and teeth went numb. After an MRI and a visit to his eye doctor and dentist, Christopher was still without answers. No one could figure out why he was experiencing these symptoms.

In late September, Christopher went with his wife to the Emergency Department at Rose Medical Center, where they discovered enlarged lymph nodes and performed a biopsy.

“She was there by my side, taking care of me the entire time,” Christopher says of his wife. They had just married three months earlier.

Christopher was immediately admitted to Rose, where a doctor reviewed his symptoms. Determining that Christopher’s symptoms pointed to either MS or lymphoma, Christopher was referred to Dr. Alan Feiner.

“Oh, he is an amazing doctor. The level of care that he gives you and how he goes through everything, and he’s there every day for you—I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Christopher says.

“He has dedicated his life to his patients, and you can honestly feel that… it’s good to have him fighting for you on your side.”

From his admission to the hospital until first week of November, Christopher lived on Rose’s fifth floor.

“All of the doctors I came into contact with at Rose were amazing. The nurses on the fifth floor were great,” says Christopher.

“I’m really thankful for all of them.”

A liver biopsy confirmed that Christopher had Stage 4 Burkitt’s lymphoma. He underwent a bone marrow biopsy and began chemotherapy. He was just 26 years old at the time.

“When I finally got the news, it wasn’t what I expected,” he recalls.

A tumor was located behind his right eye, paralyzing his optic nerve and his eye’s ability to track to the right—which is why Christopher was seeing double. Fourteen doses of radiation were applied to his ocular region and chemotherapy was delivered into his spinal fluid.

“Being newly-weds and going through that with my new wife was very difficult, but she was there the entire time—fighting for me, taking care of me when I was out of it,” says Christopher, who has a hard time remembering the first couple of weeks after the initial biopsies and treatments.

After Christopher was discharged, he visited the transfusion center for platelets every day for two weeks before beginning chemotherapy again in January 2012.

But there was a problem.  Chemoradiation did not achieve a complete response, which is necessary for survival in Burkitt’s lymphoma.

Christopher waited two months for a donor and had to postpone the procedure when his liver counts were too high. To complicate things, Christopher learned that the original donor he had arranged backed out.

With his team of doctors and loved ones by his side, Christopher decided to use his own stem cells for the procedure. In April 2012 his stem cells were extracted and then reintroduced the next day, successfully, and the transplant held. Dr. Tara Gregory of the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute (CBCI) at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center (P/SL) performed the transplant.

Due to his weakened immune system, Christopher remained at P/SL for two weeks while his body recovered from all of the tribulations it had endured.

“Now, looking back, I’m thankful to be alive, honestly,” he says.

Christopher currently works in law enforcement. He was moved by the actions of his co-workers and the efforts they made for him.

“They covered my time—because I didn’t have sick time there to cover it all—they actually donated all their sick hours to help me get through it. They donated money and time, they visited and brought my wife food, helped her try to feel normal through all of it.”

Christopher has since returned to his regular position full-time. For anyone else dealing with similar hardships, he offers a simple word of advice:

“Like they told us, plan what you’re going to do after you get over it, and that’s what we did.”

Christopher has been cancer-free since April 2012.

The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Christopher is our survivor for December.

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Surviving Well: Wendy Tenzyk, Colon Cancer

www.RenditionStudios.com, Laurie@RenditionStudios.com, 720.560.1611 Within moments of beginning a conversation with Wendy Tenzyk, it begins to feel like a talk with old family friends.  Her relaxed, easy-going personality is warming.  She is refreshingly genuine. “I love Dr. Feiner,” she says matter-of-factly.

As it turns out, Wendy had been referred to Rose Oncologist Dr. Alan Feiner by chance, shortly after awakening from the anesthesia administered before her colonoscopy.  The results of the procedure suggested Wendy may have cancer, and when Dr. Feiner was given her case, she decided to stick with him. Wendy doesn’t regret her decision.

“He would take care of me,” says Wendy, explaining that she knew she would be in good hands. Wendy was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer following a preventative screening. Within a few days of the colonoscopy she had undergone more testing and begun discussing treatment plans with Dr. Feiner.  Acting quickly, they started treatment right away.

“I would probably think I was more prepared,” says Wendy. Her career has made her somewhat familiar with the process. She is currently on her third variation of chemotherapy and “thankfully, feeling very well through it all.” Her first treatment of chemotherapy lasted six months.After her platelets seemed to disappear, she was monitored until things were back to normal.  She then began a treatment administered in the form of a pill, but switched gears when it was found that tumor activity was still increasing.

www.RenditionStudios.com, Laurie@RenditionStudios.com, 720.560.1611Wendy admits that taking pills was the easiest form of treatment she has experienced, but that didn’t stop her from switching to something that could be more effective. Her current form of chemotherapy is by infusion every two weeks. This gives Wendy time to keep busy with the things that matter most.

“I think work is a great distraction,” she says. It is clear to see, when conversing with Wendy, that she is very grateful to have a job to go to and a career to focus on.

“He has come to every appointment with me,” she says of her husband—both her and her husband’s employers have been very understanding throughout it all. When asked about her coping methods, Wendy doesn’t hesitate to mention those close to her heart. “My faith, my close circle of friends at my church… when I know folks are praying for me, that’s a big source of comfort,” she says.

“Each person has their own way to approach it,” she says. “Being out and about and in the world [helps]…” Wendy loves Colorado.  Gardening in the summer, skiing in the winter, volunteering for the Boy Scouts—it’s the little things that she seems to enjoy the most.

Even a nice compliment can go a long way. “It just makes you feel better,” she says, thinking of friends and family who have told her how good she looks or how well she is doing. These kinds of positive remarks can make all the difference, she says.  It’s easy to see they’ve impacted Wendy, who has continued her ever-optimistic outlook, even when dealing with a difficult cancer diagnosis.

The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Wendy is our survivor for November. www.RenditionStudios.com, Laurie@RenditionStudios.com, 720.560.1611

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Surviving Well: Kina, Breast Cancer

To say that breast cancer changed Kina McMillian’s life would be an understatement. To say that breast cancer changed her life in a profound and meaningful way would be more accurate.

Kina has the unique ability to find the good in most everything she sees. She has taken a difficult and overwhelming part of her life and transformed it into a tool she uses to help others. Above all, she is brave and unflinchingly passionate.

“To me, it’s been a blessing, because I’ve been able to talk to other people… and just walk them through it, walk them through my experience,” says Kina.

She has used her diagnosis as an opportunity to become involved in the fight against breast cancer.

“I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that may be my reason of why I got breast cancer to begin with,” she says.

Since her diagnosis, Kina has been involved in a number of events in her community aimed at fighting breast cancer. From modeling shoes in a fashion show to participating in walks and speaking at luncheons, Kina has dedicated herself to the cause. And she doesn’t plan to stop.

“I’m going to do it for the rest of my life,” she says convincingly.

In 1995, Kina noticed a lump in her breast. A biopsy proved the lump to be benign, but she has been no stranger to mammograms ever since. In 2012, when she found another lump in her breast, a biopsy proved yet again that the lump was benign.

In October 2012, Kina found another small lump in her left breast. Assuming it was most likely benign like the others she had found, she didn’t take it seriously and chose not to do much about it.

It wasn’t until December of that year that Kina saw a cause for concern when she mentioned the lump to her gynecologist during her yearly check-up. Since she had already had her annual mammogram, her gynecologist scheduled her for an ultrasound.

On her way home from the doctor’s office, a lump seemed to appear in Kina’s neck. She called her primary care physician, who told her to come back to the office the following day. They ran some tests and began to suspect that Kina had lymphoma.

Kina told her doctor about the lump in her breast. Deciding not to wait for the ultrasound she had already scheduled, Kina’s doctor sent her to Rose Medical Center for a biopsy.

The biopsy concluded that Kina had Stage 4 breast cancer. It had spread from her left breast, up to the lymph nodes in her underarms and onto the lymph nodes in her neck.

“I honestly think that lump growing like that saved my life,” says Kina. The lump in her neck was the red flag that triggered a quick response from Kina and her medical team.

After Rose Breast Center mammographer Dr. John Lewin called Kina with the results of the biopsy, he proceeded to connect her with Dr. Dev Paul, who took on her case. Acting swiftly, Kina began chemotherapy in the week following her diagnosis.

www.RenditionStudios.com, Laurie@RenditionStudios.com, 720.560.1611

From December 2012 to April 2013, Kina underwent six rounds of chemotherapy. In May, she had a double mastectomy by Rose breast surgeon Dr. Stephanie Miller, and that procedure was followed by radiation therapy for six weeks. Kina is currently in remission.

“I think he’s great. He’s funny,” Kina says of Dr. Paul. “I think he’s a really great doctor, and I’m grateful for him—for all he’s done for me. I guess for the fact that I’m still alive… so I guess he knows what he is doing. Even though my mom questions him all the time,” Kina says, laughing. “She’s like, ‘Are you sure she needs to be taking this medicine? Why are you doing this?’, so anyway he can put up with my mom, he’s alright with me.”

Jokes aside, Kina is grateful for all of the support her family has showed her. She has decided to pay it forward in a variety of ways, like going to sit with other patients during their treatment.

“I was so blessed because my mom and dad, my in-laws and my cousin Alexis just dropped everything and came here from Texas and sat with me—I never sat by myself. So I didn’t want anybody else to have to sit by themselves.”

The most difficult part of it all, Kina says, was watching how it affected her family.

“The radiation burnt my skin totally off, and I was in pain, but I could take that more than I could hear my brother cry,” she says.

Her brother, whom she still refers to as a “little brother” despite the fact that he is 36 years old, wasn’t the only one to take her diagnosis especially hard.

“My husband, he was trying his best to be strong,” she says, describing their first meeting with Dr. Paul. “To see him try to fight back the tears [when] he couldn’t…I had to stay strong. I never let any of them see me cry.”

Of course, Kina is not the only one relieved about the progress she has made.

“Everybody is ecstatic,” she says. Everybody, including her 5-year-old nephew.

“My brother explained to him ‘Auntie’s hair is like mine now, so don’t be shocked,’ and he was all excited because I went home after my hair started growing back, and he’s like ‘Oh! Well I see your hair is growing back!’, so I think everybody is just happy to see that I am getting healthier.”

Kina makes it very clear that the encouragement from those closest to her gave her the courage to keep fighting, and that she is thankful for the strength they gave her.

“I had the best support system ever. My family, my sorority sisters were the best, and my friends—everybody,” she says.

She also offers some support of her own:

“Stay positive because I think that, as long as you keep a positive attitude, it will get you through it. I honestly believe that,” she says. “Keep doing what you do. Don’t slow down.”

The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Kina is our survivor for October.

www.RenditionStudios.com, Laurie@RenditionStudios.com, 720.560.1611

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Surviving Well: Renée, Ovarian Cancer

www.RenditionStudios.com, Laurie@RenditionStudios.com, 720.560.1611In the summer of 2012, Renée was experiencing bladder issues that she and her primary care physician thought might just be a urinary tract infection. As the discomfort increased, she knew something wasn’t right. Because Renée has worked for nearly 20 years in surgical services at Rose Medical Center, she knows many of the physicians personally and knew that she needed to be seen by Rose urologist Dr. Jeffrey Snyder to see what exactly was causing her so much pain. She went to his office for a bladder scan which was unable to detect any issue; however Dr. Snyder knew that something just wasn’t right, so he sent Renée to the emergency department for a CT scan. That scan discovered two large malignant masses that were in her ovaries and were situated on her bladder.

The following day, Renée was seen by Rose gynecologic oncologist Dr. Daniel Donato and was told that she would need to have surgery to remove the masses. After her surgery, Renée was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer as the cancer had spread to about a foot of her colon.

www.RenditionStudios.com, Laurie@RenditionStudios.com, 720.560.1611Once recovered from her surgery, Renée underwent three rounds of chemotherapy to kill the cancerous cells that were in her colon. She then underwent a second surgery in November of 2012 where a peritoneal port was placed in her abdomen. Through this port, she would receive a second round of chemotherapy to kill any cancerous cells that were in her colon. Renée underwent two rounds of chemotherapy with the peritoneal port and was finished with her treatment in December 2012.

After going through two surgeries, five rounds of chemotherapy and being out of work for seven months, Renée returned to work in March of 2013. “I feel so good right now, that those seven months seem like a blur.” Renée had her first PET scan in April of 2013, which indicated that her cancer was in remission.

Renée never lost hope throughout the fight that she endured because of the support from her husband, two daughters as well as the wonderful care that she received from Dr. Donato and Rose oncologist Dr. Michele Basche. Having overcome her fight with cancer, Renée’s faith is now stronger than ever: “I know that God got me through this test so that I can share my testimony. With faith, a positive mind and spirit, you can overcome anything.”

The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Renée is our survivor for September.

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Meet Rose’s DAISY Award Winner for July – Matthew Orr!

Matthew

Matthew (center) holds his award and stands with two of his colleagues.

Congratulations to Matthew Orr on becoming the eighth Rose DAISY Award winner!

Matthew’s nomination came from an 80-year-old gentleman who was experiencing the challenge of a new cardiac diagnosis.  He said, “Matt was busy–but not too busy to take the time to discuss the pacemaker. He cared.  This is unusual in today’s world, when few take the time to help someone like me.”

Matt’s manager, Parulben Darji, says about Matt:

“He demonstrates consistency in providing excellent care to his patients on 4 Central.  Matt treats his patients like his own family.  Last week, Matt called his patient’s wife after a consult to update her on her husband’s condition, [and] the wife was really touched by Matt’s caring attitude.  He takes the time to explain everything to his patients.  It’s not easy for our patients to remember their nurses’ names but I often hear Matt’s name during my rounds for recognition from our patients and family.  [He] is truly an amazing nurse and an asset for 4 Central.  I am so proud of Matt.”

Matthew

Matthew (front right) and other members from the 4 Central team.

Matt’s connection with his patients is particularly noteworthy and important because he works at night, when his patients are most vulnerable and alone. He demonstrates a sincere commitment to the well-being of his patients, and he is an essential part of the team at Rose, which is why he is Rose’s DAISY Award winner for July.

Congratulations to Matt and all of 4 Central! And thank you for all that you do!


If you want to nominate a compassionate Rose nurse for the DAISY Award, please contact us through our website or look for DAISY Award nomination forms around the hospital.

The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses was born to honor the skillful and compassionate care provided by nurses. DAISY stands for Diseases Attacking the Immune System, and nurses who receive the DAISY Award are honored in a number of ways. They receive a certificate, a DAISY Award pin and a beautiful hand-crafted sculpture entitled A Healer’s Touch. The winner’s department is also recognized with a banner to display and Cinnabon® cinnamon rolls.

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Surviving Well: Margaret, Thyroid Cancer

www.RenditionStudios.com, Laurie@RenditionStudios.com, 720.560.1611Margaret Juanes has been described by her medical team as a miracle. When she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in September 2012, she began a long journey that she never anticipated.

“It was a shocking moment at that time,” she says. Margaret was not expecting such a serious diagnosis because she says she never felt sick and led a healthy lifestyle.

When she first felt a lump in her throat, she didn’t think much of it. Still, she made an appointment with her healthcare provider just to be safe. When her provider told her it looked like a cyst, she was sent to get an ultrasound and a needle-stick biopsy. When the doctor came in to give the diagnosis, Margaret says she could see in the doctor’s face that something was wrong.

“’You have cancer,’” Margaret says, recalling the doctor’s diagnosis.

Margaret was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and within a week her thyroid was surgically removed. There is no effective chemotherapy for thyroid cancer, so instead, Margaret’s surgery was supplemented with radiation therapy in the form of radioactive iodine tablets.

“It makes you sick, but, you know, if its helping you, then it’s worth it,” she says of the radiation.

After the surgery and radiation, it seemed things were improving for Margaret. She was carefully monitored by endocrinologist Dr. Leslie Gamache for the next several months. Margaret’s recovery was progressing steadily.

Unfortunately, in April 2013 it became apparent that the cancer had grown back into her trachea. In fact, a large portion of her trachea was invaded by the new tumor, so surgery was planned to remove that portion of the trachea, and possibly her vocal box and vocal cords.

Margaret was angry, hurt and frustrated. Not only was it confusing that the cancer had worsened so quickly, but she did not feel prepared to undergo the additional treatment. However, her medical team convinced her that without the treatment her life was in jeopardy. Margaret came to the realization that she needed to deal with her situation, no matter how intimidating it may be.

Rose Medical Center thyroid surgeon Dr. Kimberly Vanderveen and two specialists performed the surgery. No one could assure Margaret of the outcome until the surgery was underway, so she stayed positive and let her medical team take over.

“The toughest thing to overcome is not being able to do [everyday tasks] for yourself and having to depend on people,” says Margaret.

“It was very emotionally difficult knowing that I couldn’t be the one in charge.”

Margaret’s appreciation and gratitude for Dr. Vanderveen and everyone at Rose is truly moving. At such a frightening point in her life, Margaret says she is thankful for the staff that worked to make her as comfortable as possible.

“Oh, [Dr. Vanderveen] was there every day to see me. She was so comforting. She made me feel like somebody really cared. The hospital over there at Rose—the best place you could ever go if you have to have surgery. The best. They’re the best.”

Removing the cancer would be a very difficult procedure. During the surgery, Dr. Vanderveen and her team took special care by sending multiple biopsies and lymph glands to ensure that the cancer was completely removed. Because the surgery was so involved, it took about eight hours.

When Margaret woke up, still unaware of the outcome of her surgery, she found her sister by her side. Margaret remained in the hospital for two weeks after the procedure, spending most of one week in the Intensive Care Unit. She needed a temporary breathing tube because of swelling in her neck and the fragile state of her trachea. Rose employees took special care of her during this time.

“They were always coming to ask me if I needed anything, very helpful, middle of the night… anytime I rang the bell they were always there for me. They sent me roses, get well cards…” she trails off. “The people there are very warm and caring. What I had to go through was horrifying to me, but they made it comforting… they were very attentive towards me.”

“There’s nothing I could say to show my gratitude for all my specialists, the doctors, housekeeping, the nurses—everybody,” says Margaret.

Miraculously, the surgery was extremely successful and Margaret’s voice box, vocal chords and vocal cord nerves were spared. Aside from a slight change in the sound of her voice and some scarring on her neck, Margaret has few lasting side effects from the procedure.

“I’m so grateful, I’m glad that I even have a voice,” she says.

In July 2013, Margaret finally finished treatment and began to feel better after a very hard couple of months. During her recovery, she spent one month in a neck brace. She had trouble sleeping and remembers focusing on the future, taking it one day at a time.

“It was extremely difficult. Emotionally, physically…” she says of the whole experience.

Currently, Margaret is continuing to follow up with Dr. Gamache. Things are looking good, and she remains cancer free.

“It’s hard to talk about it without crying,” she says. “It still gets me… I’ll be sitting here in my office or at home, and I’ll just start crying, just because I can’t believe that I’m here, and everything’s fine—and I’m so grateful for everything.”

For Margaret, she found strength and courage in focusing on her life and getting it back. Becoming well again and returning to the things she loves, like spending time with her family and sewing the way her grandmother taught her, is what she turned her attention to in order to stay positive.

“Don’t let your mind take over too much of what’s going on with you, because it will drive you crazy… it will. Mind over matter, I truly believe in that. I truly do,” she says. “Be strong in your mind, and it will help your body.”

She hopes her story will help and inspire others, and she has found value in sharing her journey.

“I thought it was going to be harder to talk about, but it’s not, so I’m very happy for that,” says Margaret. “I thought I was going to fall to pieces, but I don’t feel like that, so I’ve learned something today about myself. I am stronger than what I thought I was.”

The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Margaret is our survivor for August.

Posted in Cancer Care, Doctors at Rose, Patient Care, Patient Stories, Surgical Care, Surviving Well, Women's Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

55 Rose affiliate physicians named “Top Doctors” by 5280 Magazine

5280_TopDocsLogo_2014The annual “Top Doctors” issue of 5280 Magazine just hit newsstands in August, and 55 Rose affiliate physicians made the 2014 list. The doctors on the list are chosen by other doctors, who are asked by 5280 to select who they would trust with their care, and that of their families. Selections are made and the resulting list names the “Top Doctors” in the metro area, divided into specialty-based categories. This year, the total list of physician-selected “Top Doctors” includes 333 doctors in 95 different specialties.

In addition to the list of recognized physicians who currently practice at Rose, the issue included a feature about Rose hematologist/medical oncologist Dr. Alan S. Feiner! In the feature, Dr. Feiner discusses the experience, wisdom and inspiration he’s gained both on and off the job throughout the years.

The following 5280 Magazine “Top Doctors” currently practice at Rose Medical Center:

  • Oscar Aguirre, Female Pelvic Medicine
  • Michael Bateman, Plastic Surgery
  • John F. Bershof, Plastic Surgery Within the Head/Neck
  • Sean Bryant, Neuroradiology*
  • Allen L. Cohn, Medical Oncology
  • Michael A. Cooper, Vascular Surgery
  • Matthew P. Dorighi, Pediatrics*
  • Wendi Drummond, Pediatric Infectious Disease*
  • Christopher Fanale, Neurology, Vascular Neurology
  • Alan S. Feiner, Hematology, Medical Oncology
  • Jonathan Fishman, Gastroenterology
  • Jeffrey Goates, Pathology
  • Alex Goldsmith, Internal Medicine
  • Kenneth S. Greenberg, Infectious Disease
  • Carrie Horn, Internal Medicine
  • Davis K. Hurley, Surgery of the Hand
  • Kristinell Keil, Female Pelvic Medicine
  • Jennifer Kemp, Diagnostic Radiology
  • Craig Kornbluth, Diagnostic Radiology
  • Bradley D. Kurtz, Pediatrics*
  • Donald J. Lefkowits, Emergency Medicine
  • Ann M. Leibold, Dermatology*
  • Meg Lemon, Dermatology*
  • Thomas M. Li, Internal Medicine
  • Mervyn Lifschitz, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Gregory Lindsay, Maternal and Fetal Medicine
  • David C. Longcope, Colon and Rectal Surgery
  • Daniel R. Lumian, Family Medicine
  • Robert M. Macdonald, Surgery
  • Noah Makovsky, Pediatrics
  • Jay Markson, Pediatrics*
  • Sameer K. Mehta, Interventional Cardiology
  • David Mellman, Internal Medicine
  • Debra Minjarez, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility
  • Gary R. Morris, Pain Medicine
  • Donald J. Murphy, Geriatric Medicine
  • Andrew W. Parker, Orthopedic Sports Medicine, Orthopedic Surgery
  • Richard K. Parker, Thoracic and Cardiac Surgery
  • Steven Perry, Pediatrics
  • William J. Plaus, Surgery
  • William T. Pluss, Pulmonary Disease
  • Richard Porreco, Maternal and Fetal Medicine*
  • Owen Reichman, Otolaryngology
  • Ralph R. Round, Neurology
  • Michael D. Schwartz, Critical Care
  • Graham Sellers, Colon and Rectal Surgery
  • Stuart Senkfor, Nephrology
  • Stephen H. Shogan, Neurological Surgery
  • Vijay Subbarao, Cardiovascular Disease
  • David Theil, Anesthesiology
  • Andrew Tucker, Pediatrics
  • Asa G. Yancey Jr., Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Gerald V. Zarlengo, Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Yani Zinis, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Jonathan D. Zonca, Family Medicine

*These physicians also practice at other Colorado hospitals.

Congratulations to the 5280 Rose affiliate Top Doctors for 2014!


Find out more about Rose Medical Center by visiting RoseMed.com

To learn more about the physicians on the 5280 “Top Doctors” list for 2014, visit RoseMed.com and click the “Find A Doctor” tool.

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