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.

“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

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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.

Though two mammograms appeared normal, it was an MRI that detected a sizeable lump in Carolyn’s right breast, and two smaller lumps in the left breast. 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 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 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,”

When 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 To speak with a representative, please call 1-877-712-HOPE.

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Stay Open, Stay Young…Stay Uncomfortable

by Lila Lazarus

My Mom stopped using the computer. Sitting at the keyboard and constantly trying to remember which password and what website to use became too much for her. It was uncomfortable, so she stopped. Now she has no way to Skype with her grandchildren and can’t remember how to log on to her bank account. It means she’s no longer checking her emails and it’s been so long, she can’t remember how to log on to Facebook. It makes it difficult for friends and family to connect with her. It’s a dangerous decision as we get older. We either open up to learning new things, take on new challenges and push harder to widen our scope or decide to avoid discomfort and watch our world get smaller and smaller. My Mom always loved a good adventure. She was always so creative and so open to a challenge…open to life. But the moment she stopped, everything changed. Life started closing. Continue reading “Stay Open, Stay Young…Stay Uncomfortable”

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”

Have High Blood Pressure or Diabetes? Watch Out for This

by Sara Altshul

This article was originally published on Sharecare.

They may not get as much press as your heart or brain, but your kidneys do a lot of good work. A pair of bean-shaped, fist-sized organs found on either side of your lower spine, they filter wastes and excess fluids from between 120 to 150 quarts of blood every day. During this process, they produce urine—about two quarts daily. They also release hormones that help control blood pressure, produce red blood cells and build healthy bones.

When all your organs work together properly, you’re barely aware of all the heavy lifting your kidneys do to keep you alive and well. But healthy kidneys depend on the health of your other organs and body functions. When one process is disrupted or affected by disease, the dysfunction over time can damage your kidneys; that can lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD) and eventually, kidney failure. Continue reading “Have High Blood Pressure or Diabetes? Watch Out for This”

Listen to Rob Casalou on WJR’s ‘Food for Thought’

Rob Casalou
Rob Casalou, President and CEO, Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System

Rob Casalou, president and CEO of Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, spoke about food insecurity on WJR’s “Food for Thought” show with hosts Dr. Phillip Knight of the Food Bank Council of Michigan and Gerry Brisson of Gleaners, including how to improve access to fresh, healthy food and the role health care can play.

Click here for the playlist or listen to the full podcast

Some Day, One Day is Today

Someday_Onedayby Lila Lazarus

I’ve been talking about writing a book someday for as long as I can remember.  I always knew that one day I would get to it.  But the moment I sat down to do it,  I saw something really interesting on LinkedIn, or got sucked into an article on Huffington Post or just needed another cup of coffee.  For me there were always eight days in a week.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Someday.  Drum roll please.   I’m done talking.  If you’re reading this now, then something really incredible happened.  Someday, One Day  is Today.  That’s the title of my new book.  How do you like it? Continue reading “Some Day, One Day is Today”

Infused with Love

Local school tradition spreads joy to cancer patients

For two weeks straight, Laura Shaffer opened up her kindergarten classroom during afternoon recess, as students flooded in to work on a beloved community project.

They set up an assembly line, and for the next half hour, students stood and filled plastic goody bags with hot cocoa packets and candy before securing them with pink tags and twisty ties.

“The students do everything,” Shaffer said.

Students at Livonia’s Randolph Elementary School helped bag an astounding 1,696 Valentine’s care packages this February, and delivered them to local cancer patients, including those at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor’s infusion center.

Continue reading “Infused with Love”

Save the Date: See, Test & Treat 2018

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

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