Be Courageous

Kellie finds hope and healing with the breast cancer care team at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea’s Cancer Center

The diagnosis – stage 3 breast cancer – left Kellie Ulloa in shock and disbelief. The 47-year old mother of four from Grass Lake thought of all the possible outcomes to her health and future. But mainly, she felt terrified.

No one in her family had a history of breast cancer. And only five months before her diagnosis, Kellie’s routine mammogram had come back normal. Yet, she knew something wasn’t right.

Kellie contacted her primary care physician and a few tests later she was diagnosed with a slow-growing cancer not regularly visible on a 2D mammogram but often caught with 3D mammography.

The terror she felt from the diagnosis melted into hope and optimism when she met with Kathleen Beekman, MD and her care team from St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea’s Cancer Center.

“I knew in that moment, I would make it through this storm,” she said.

Kellie’s team went over her treatment plan in detail, and answered every question sincerely and thoroughly. “They really put my mind at ease,” she recalled.

From that first meeting in 2016, Kellie underwent four surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments over a sixteen-month period. Her care team was with her every step of the way.

“I cannot express to you how thankful I am for the courage you have given me along this rocky journey.”

Kellie_Ulloa_06Two years later, Kellie is in remission. She’s an advocate for mammograms – telling all her friends to choose the 3D mammography at St. Joe’s Chelsea so even the tiniest cancer located in a hidden spot can be detected early.

In addition, Kellie participates in a clinical trial that helps cancer survivors following treatment. Each week, a coach works with her to create and maintain a healthy diet and integrate exercise into her daily routine.

Kellie is grateful for Dr. Beekman and the entire St Joe’s Chelsea team for helping her through the biggest challenge of her life.

“I cannot express to you how thankful I am for the courage you have given me along this rocky journey,” Kellie wrote in a letter to Dr. Beekman.

“With your guidance and support, I knew I was never alone. You cared for me, never seeing myself as just another cancer patient, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Your quality and integrity as a doctor, and more importantly, as a person, shine through.

“Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

For more information about breast cancer prevention and treatment programs at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, visit stjoeshealth.org/cancercare-breast. To speak with a representative, please call 1-877-712-HOPE.

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Be Reassured

An unlucky fall led to a surprising diagnosis and life-saving treatment for Manchester resident Mary Kay Bailey

While on a camping trip in Monroe, Mich. in October 2016, Mary Kay tripped down the front steps of her camper, leaving her in excruciating pain. She insisted she didn’t want to go to any hospital except St. Joe’s in Ann Arbor.  She gingerly got into her car and made the hour-drive to her hometown hospital, passing several other facilities along the way.

Once inside St. Joe’s Emergency Room, a CT scan of her chest showed three broken ribs but also a spot on her lung.

“My daughter had been bugging me for a while, even before this happened, to go to the Lung Clinic,” said Bailey, 72, adding that she had smoked off and on throughout her life.

The lung clinic confirmed the initial diagnosis of stage-one lung cancer. Within a month of her accident, thoracic surgeon Kumari Adams, MD, removed the lower right lobe of Mary Kay’s lung using the Da Vinci Robot surgery system.

“I can’t praise St. Joe’s enough, and Dr. Adams is just the greatest. She took me under her wing as soon as I saw her. I was never scared, I knew God would guide her.”

Mary Kay was back home shortly after surgery.

Mary_Kay_Bailey_09“I was in far worse pain from my broken ribs than I was from the lung surgery,” exclaimed Mary Kay. “A few days after surgery, I went refrigerator shopping and washed our kitchen floor. I can still do everything I want.”

All of the post-operative biopsies came back clear. Mary Kay was cancer-free and required no additional treatments. Every six months, she returns to St. Joe’s for a CT scan and checkup with medical oncologist Kathleen Beekman, MD.

Mary Kay gained more than expert care; she found friends who care about her cancer journey.

“I can’t praise St. Joe’s enough, and Dr. Adams is just the greatest. She took me under her wing as soon as I saw her. I was never scared, I knew God would guide her. When I was in the hospital after surgery, she always gave me and my husband a hug. It’s like I have a new friend.

“Dr. Adams is my remarkable.”

For more information about the Lung Clinic at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, call 1-877-712-HOPE or visit stjoeshealth.org/cancercare-lung.

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Be Steadfast

Carolyn Violetta continues her fight against breast cancer with her team at St. Joseph Mercy Brighton Cancer Center

The fear of cancer didn’t stop Carolyn Violetta from taking her son to the opening day of the Ann Arbor Art Fair. She wanted to enjoy the annual family tradition before returning home to brace for the phone call. And when it came, it confirmed what the 53-year-old Fowlerville mother had suspected for months.

After her cancer diagnosis, an MRI helped to define the extent of her tumor. Having no family history of the disease, Carolyn said the thought of breast cancer was awful and daunting.

“I knew it was coming, it was pretty horrible,” said Carolyn.

But Carolyn said meeting her cancer care team at St. Joseph Mercy Brighton Cancer Center quickly put her mind at ease, and she knew she would be in good hands. A self-admitted worrier, Carolyn met her match in breast surgeon Dr. Tara Breslin.

“Dr. Breslin is right to the point. She doesn’t mess around. I appreciate that.”

Carolyn also praised the rest of her team, including her radiologist, oncologist, PAs and infusion center nurses, for approaching her care in a collaborative manner.

“Since my cancer diagnosis and going to the many appointments that come along with that, I have been amazed at the quality of care I have received. Every time I leave an appointment I comment to my family and my friends that this team of doctors makes me feel safe and cared for.”

“I thank you, my family thanks you, for everything you have done for us.”

Carolyn_Violetta_05Carolyn underwent a double mastectomy. It revealed that the cancer spread to a couple of lymph nodes, supporting a stage 2B diagnosis. Carolyn recently completed chemotherapy, and now faces a six-week round of radiation therapy.

Though the journey to being cancer free isn’t over yet, Carolyn said she tries to rejoice in small victories. Hair-loss was particularly painful for the former hairstylist, so she looks forward to growing out her hair again post-chemo. And normalcy is a gift she no longer takes for granted. Whether it’s lacing up her running shoes and going outside for a jog, talking to her friends or spending time with her husband and two sons, Carolyn said she tries to keep her mind and spirit active.

“I’m still in it. You just have to wake up every day and take a bite out of this,” she said. “You wake up every day, and it’s another day you’re alive.”

She thanked Dr. Breslin and her entire care team for fighting with her in this ongoing battle.

“I thank you, my family thanks you, for everything you have done for us.”

For more information about breast cancer prevention and treatment programs at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, visit stjoeshealth.org/cancercare-breast. To speak with a representative, please call 1-877-712-HOPE.

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Be a Survivor

Three Bouts with Cancer Hasn’t Stopped Birmingham Resident Shawn Williams from Enjoying Life

When Shawn Williams was diagnosed with melanoma in the early 90s, her life immediately changed as she began a journey as a cancer survivor. Since then, her journey has included two additional cancer battles and the cancer care team at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland provided the support, compassion and personalized care needed to fight each diagnosis.

“A cancer diagnosis is often seen and felt as a crisis. You’ve survived the news and shock of a cancer diagnosis – you’re a survivor,” says Suzanne Jermstad, MSN, FNP-BC, AOCNP, ACHPN, an advanced oncology nurse practitioner at St. Joe’s, who works with cancer patients actively in treatment.

Williams underwent surgery in 2003 to treat ovarian cancer and was prepared to resort to drastic measures when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She was referred to Amy Kirby, MD for further consultation.

“Dr. Kirby looked at my ultrasound, examined me and the took me into a conference room,” says Williams. “She spent an hour and a half with me. I remember her kindness and compassion. She told me, ‘we’ve already discussed you in tumor board and you’re going to see Dr. Goodman.'”

“At a time when you feel so out of control, they make sure you feel in control – and that’s so important,”

Shawn_Williams_07When she shared her desire to forego chemotherapy treatment and have a mastectomy instead, Judie Goodman, MD, a  hematologist-oncologist at St. Joe’s didn’t try to dissuade her – she listened and provided options.

“At a time when you feel so out of control, they make sure you feel in control – and that’s so important,” says Williams of her cancer care team at St. Joe’s.

After discussing her options and learning that her cancer was 100 percent curable, Williams opted to undergo chemo and have a lumpectomy, realizing a more radical course of treatment wasn’t necessary for a full recovery.

As Williams survivorship journey continues, she has returned to doing the things she loves, including hiking in Sedona and enjoying sunrises and sunsets. Pursuing normal activities can be critical to recovery and St. Joe’s provides the resources and support to help patients continue to do the things they enjoy.

“After a diagnosis, patients experience a multitude of emotions – they are fearful, worried, anxious,” says Jermstad. “The mental battle plan is just as important as the physical battle plan and we provide the tools to fight that mental battle. We encourage patients to do what they can to keep their life normal and continue doing what they love to do.”

St. Joe’s offers resources for cancer survivors at every stage of their journey, including breast and lung cancer nurse navigators, new patient orientation, survivorship classes, a breast cancer support group and personal appearance classes for cancer survivors. These resources allow patients to continue to receive support even after they complete treatment, as they establish their “new normal” as survivors.

“That’s where ‘survivorship’ comes from: after treatment, patients felt the loss of that safety net that was there for them throughout their treatment,” says Jermstad. “There was a gap when patients would finish treatment and drop off the radar – and they felt that.”

Williams recognizes the importance of survivorship support at all stages of treatment. After receiving exemplary care from St. Joe’s cancer care team as a patient, Williams is now able to give back to current cancer patients through participation on St. Joe’s Oncology Patient Advisory Council and her work as a mindfulness instructor. She focuses on helping patients improve quality of life by staying present and enjoying the positive aspects of life, even in the midst of cancer treatment.

For more information about breast cancer prevention and treatment programs at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, visit stjoeshealth.org/cancercare-breast. To speak with a representative, please call 1-877-712-HOPE.

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Be Surrounded by Experts

Arlene Shy credits the doctors and nurses at St. Joe’s Ann Arbor Cancer Center who gave her full confidence she was receiving the best care

Arlene Shy had always been a good, responsible patient. She sensibly scheduled a mammogram every year, confident early detection would be her best defense against breast cancer.

But Arlene learned in March 2014 that those annual mammograms weren’t as effective as she believed – her doctor at the time was still capturing the images on film. A second mammogram, ultrasound and needle biopsy at the Women’s Health Center at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor revealed Arlene, in fact, had stage 3 breast cancer. It was a rare case that showed a primary tumor in each breast.

Though the news was unsettling, Arlene marveled at the way her care team at St. Joe’s came together. She was diagnosed on a Friday and immediately met with her medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and surgeon. She had her first appointment on Monday, and by Tuesday, she had her chemotherapy port placed in her arm.
“I had a sense that all of my doctors were talking to each other. They were on the one hand very compassionate, but very firm,” Arlene said.

“As I was leaving our last visit, wanting to thank you, I said, ‘I feel you saved my life.’ Your reply, ‘That’s what I do.’ So true!”

Arlene_Shy_10Doctors chose to start Arlene on six months of chemotherapy to tackle the cancer as soon as possible. She had a month to recuperate before she had a double mastectomy. Three months of radiation rounded out the treatment.

Arlene credits the strong support team who helped her through the nine months of meticulous appointment-keeping, intense treatment and upheaval of normal life. John, Arlene’s husband of more than 40 years, accompanied Arlene to every treatment. Angie, Arlene’s beloved granddaughter, purposefully held her wedding back until Arlene completed chemotherapy. And, to Arlene’s surprise, numerous relatives and friends reached out to her with compassion and empathy.

“When you have cancer, you realize how many other women have gone through this,” she said.

Arlene is now four years cancer-free, and has been able to enjoy outings to concerts and the theater again. She even looks forward to her follow-up visits because of the strong bond she’s developed with her care team at St. Joe’s. They always struck the right combination of hope, love and honesty in handling her care.

“From our first appointment, when I asked serious questions, you gave me straight answers. Always, you have been clear, kind, compassionate,” Arlene wrote to her radiation oncologist, Dr. Marie-Adele Kress.

“As I was leaving our last visit, wanting to thank you, I said, ‘I feel you saved my life.’ Your reply, ‘That’s what I do.’ So true!”

For more information about breast cancer prevention and treatment programs at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, visit stjoeshealth.org/cancercare-breast. To speak with a representative, please call 1-877-712-HOPE.

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St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Seeking Artist Donations for Cancer Center Project

AACancerCenter_withLandscapingANN ARBOR – St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor is seeking artwork from Michigan artists to decorate its soon-to-be renovated cancer center. The hospital’s art committee is opening a call for submission, asking local artists to consider donating a piece of original art to be displayed among a total of 200 to 300 pieces throughout the cancer center.

“Our vision is to include creative, uplifting artwork gifted by our local artists to support patients, friends, family and staff on their healing journey,” said Dave Raymond, regional director of planning and design at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. St. Joe’s Art Enrichment Committee is working with Pictures Plus, an Ann Arbor art and frame shop, to help curate and install the artwork.

St. Joe’s opened a call for submission after several artists inquired about donating art as a way of expressing their support for the cancer program. The hospital will also be purchasing art for the cancer center.

“This new cancer center will serve the surrounding community, and we want to give local artists a unique opportunity to create a healing environment with their art,” said Kathryn Savitskie, art consultant from Pictures Plus, who is overseeing the submission process. Continue reading “St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Seeking Artist Donations for Cancer Center Project”

Save the Date: See, Test & Treat 2018

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SeeTestTreatSaturday, April 14 | 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Women’s Health Center
5320 Elliott Drive, Ypsilanti, MI 48197

  • Cervical cancer screening
  • (Pap test), ages 21 – 64
  • HPV test
  • Breast exam
  • Mammogram, ages 40 – 64

For more information, call 734-712-7881 or visit stjoeshealth.org/see-test-treat

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