"They took that burden off of me."
See Shelly's Story
“I believe that as a survivor, I'm here to help other survivors let other survivors know that they can make it through."
See Tara's Story
“You are more than a survivor once you go through it.”
See Gaynell's Story
"I have a family that’s with me all the way. As I walk through my treatment, they walk with me."
See Patricia's Story
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2017. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I cried a lot. It was like a funeral to me. My treatment included 8 rounds of chemoradiation and 39-40 radiations. I had a little setback with chemo – I had an allergic reaction to one of the chemos they were giving me.
I finished my chemo in November 2017. I had my surgery, mastectomy, on December 6, 2017. After the mastectomy, I then started seeing Dr. Tandon for reconstruction.
I still have a bad case of neuropathy. My oncologist said the neuropathy could last a long, long time. I have difficulty sleeping sometimes because of it. I often wish the ground was made of cotton to put my feet on and ease the pain. My hands burn all the time. Being able to get my treatment here in the cancer rehab means a lot to me. They’re very helpful and very nice. I love them too.
I had Dr. Caputto, Dr. Colfry, and Dr. Tandon as my physicians. I love all three of them; they’re amazing and awesome.
I meet a lot of people here at Touro. I see the psychiatrist sometimes too because I have some issues with anxiety and dealing with cancer itself. That was very frightening for me. I was devastated about it. Right now, I’m doing okay and recovering.
Touro is the best place for me. I have nothing to complain about here. They have been the best. I started with the Daughters of Charity and they sent me here to do some tests and that’s how I got here. They sent me to the best – top-notch.
I know I’m more than a survivor. I’m strong. I’m a fighter. I have so much to fight for; lots of grandkids. I have a family that’s with me all the way. As I walk through my treatment, they walk with me. Cancer isn’t a death sentence. I thank God every day for my doctors, I love them.
“He was like 'the head of your femur is deteriorating, almost to the surface.' He said it looked like it mastitis.”
See Kathleen's Story
"It’s amazing how much laughter can happen in an oncology department, but we’ve got such a great team at Touro."
See Paula's Story
I was diagnosed on July 3, 2003, at the age of 44. I had been getting yearly mammograms and just prior to my diagnosis had a mammogram that looked normal. A couple of months after my mammogram I felt a lump and I went back to the doctor. Since I have dense breast tissue, it had not showed up on the previous mammogram. An ultrasound showed that I had a tumor in my left breast, and I knew right away that it was something.
I went and had a biopsy and was diagnosed with stage 1 invasive breast cancer. I had a mastectomy, then reconstruction which was followed by chemotherapy. At the time I finished my second stage of reconstruction, Hurricane Katrina happened. My husband lost his job and the hospital I was working at was underwater, so we went to South Carolina. We briefly relocated so that we could keep working and keep our insurance.
After 6 months in South Carolina we moved back to New Orleans to find new jobs. I felt like I wanted to do something totally different than nursing - I decided that was oncology. It took a while, but I finally got a position at Touro, which was kind of a miracle in itself. It was one of those things that was meant to be and I have totally fallen in love working here at Touro. I love actually being able to give back and I feel like what happened to me happened for a reason, and that I needed to use that to help others.
I found that I struggled the most after my cancer treatment was completed. During treatment you’re busy, you have all of your treatments laid out, you have all of your friends lined up, and just busy all the time. When I was finished with treatment, I went back to work and my hair grew back, and everyone was like “thank god it’s over.” But it’s not, it’s not just over. It’s different now. It’s just kind of a renewal of love for life.
I was very eager to see what I could do to develop the survivorship program. It’s been about 4-5 years now and we’re going strong. We’ve got a great support group; I love my ladies. We go through the good times and the bad times together.
It’s amazing how much laughter can happen in an oncology department, but we’ve got such a great team at Touro. In 40 years of nursing, I’ve never worked with a group of people that are all so passionate about what they’re doing. They love what they’re doing and the years of experience of doing it are in the hundreds. It’s a great way to kind of close out my nursing career and spend my last nursing years here. It keeps me still going. I feel very blessed and happy that all of this has come about as it has.
I’m more than a survivor. I am a world traveler, dog lover, yogi, wife of 35 years, nurse of 40 years, and a book lover. I’m a lot of things – I’m finding new things all the time.
"The mental health part of this is what I don’t think people realize, especially the after part."
See Shannon's Story
"It's definitely a good resource that I needed."
See Karen's Story
"It was a really big deal for me to go through treatment."
See Christi's Story
"I have cancer, but I do not let cancer have me."
See Courtney's Story
I was diagnosed in January of 2018 with breast cancer. I went and got my annual mammograms at the Imaging Center on Napoleon and that was when they found the cancer. It was in a spot that I could not feel.
At the time I was diagnosed they thought the cancer was small, so I went to see Dr. Colfry and he explained all my treatment options. I decided to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction. The pathology came back, and the cancer ended up not being that small – it was big, over 5 millimeters. My cancer was diagnosed as stage 3, just because of the size. I was lucky because it did not spread into my lymph nodes. Given the size of the cancer, my doctors said that the tumor was probably there at previous mammograms, it just didn’t show up until my last one. I then did the MammaPrint test, which showed that there was a low risk of the cancer coming back. I did not have to have chemo, but I did have to do the radiation.
I’m now in the cancer rehab program and I have to be honest; I was reluctant to come to cancer rehab. At this point, I felt like I just wanted to be done with my cancer stuff and didn’t want to come. I had been to all my checkups with my doctors and I have this pain that is bothering me in my shoulder. All of my doctors said “You should really go to rehab. They’re specialists - they’re there for a reason. They see this all the time and you won’t have to go forever. It’s going to be okay.” There’s a lot of sweet people here in the cancer rehab center.
I love Touro. We have a lot of connections with this system. Dr. Colfry is amazing and really fantastic. He puts you at ease and explains everything so well. Dr. Zakris spent so much time with me and when it was time for me to have the radiation, she did a bunch of research and gave me a bunch of different answers to the questions I had. I feel like the doctors that I had here at Touro went above and beyond to make me feel informed, comfortable, and really put me at ease. I feel fortunate I was able to receive my treatment here. It’s a peaceful place and you get to know everybody here. In hindsight, being in a peaceful environment like Touro while going through treatment is good for your psyche.
I’m more than a survivor, I’m a mother, wife, I’m a hard worker. I am a good friend. I’m a sister. I feel very fortunate. I am a lucky person – I have a full life and I am really healthy now. I have a lot of things I enjoy doing and a lot of people around me to support me. When I found out I had cancer, I remember thinking “you can have these things wrong with you and not know it, and still be living this good and great life.” I had a running group I was apart of and when I was diagnosed, I would run and say to myself, “I have cancer, but I do not let cancer have me.” I think having a positive attitude is really important.
One of the best things about this journey is that being diagnosed with cancer is something bad that happened to you, but it’s the nicest thing in some ways because all of a sudden you see how many people love you. I felt the love the whole time. It’s a special kind of love you feel. I have also made a pact to myself; it makes you stop and pause and evaluate what is important to you. It forces you to slow down a little bit and to do the things you enjoy most. It makes you stop and realize that you won’t be around forever, and you need to enjoy the ride. It’s okay to sometimes just pause and enjoy your life and family and I think I had to get cancer to teach myself that lesson.
"I know I'm not their only patient, but to be honest, I feel like I am."
See Flay's Story
"I am more than a survivor. I am a conqueror."
See Christy's Story
"I feel like rehab gave me my life back."
See Dianna's Story
"Breast cancer, while you're pregnant, can be very aggressive. My pregnancy was feeding my cancer."
See Natalie's Story
"Being diagnosed with breast cancer is not a death sentence."
See Nicole's Story
I am a nurse on Touro’s postpartum floor. I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma stage 1 in 2009. I was 27. At the time I had a then 1-year old that I was breastfeeding. I was taking a shower one day and noticed I had a little lump in my breast. The next day I talked to one of the lactation consultants at Touro and she said that the lump could be a clogged milk duct and to monitor it. The lump didn’t go away. I then talked to an OB at Touro and he ordered me an ultrasound. I went for the ultrasound and Dr. Rupley did a biopsy of the lump.
I was at work when I found out I had cancer. I called my doctor and she was so sweet. I saw her in the office, and they ordered a mammogram, another ultrasound, and MRIs.
On October 22, I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I started chemo in December 2009. I received three different types of chemotherapy from December 2009 to March 2010 and had the herceptin treatment for a year after that. I lost all of my hair. The chemo was a lot.
Having my surgeries here at Touro where I work was a challenge for me, because my co-workers would become my caretakers. But our unit here is like a family. At that particular time, we had just started taking breast flap patients in the postpartum floor. They had my room decorated with my air freshener, pink sheets and flowers, and pictures of my husband and daughter. They really took care of me.
Nothing is ever easy with me. I ended up needing a blood transfusion during that stay in the hospital.
My husband and I had talked about having more kids prior to my diagnosis. I had to take tamoxifen for 6 years and I was just so upset when I was put on it because I knew I wouldn’t be able to have any more children. A couple of years ago my husband and I just started trying for another baby. Around Thanksgiving, I found out I was pregnant, and I didn’t think it was going to happen that easily. I now have an 11-year-old and a 15-month-old.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer is not a death sentence. When you hear the word cancer it is scary and hard, but you just have to do what you have to do for your family, and yourself.
I’m more than a survivor, I’m a mother, daughter, and patient advocate. I talk to my patients and tell them about my story, which I think helps, especially with the younger patients.
"I really feel like my cancer was for a reason, it may be I need to be the voice for future generations."
See Alicia's Story
"I'm now a survivor who looks at others and goes "You can make it""
See Deborah's Story
"I was healed one time and I will be healed again."
See Dorothy's Story
I was at Charity Hospital when I diagnosed in 2001 with a rare breast cancer and I have been coming in and out of the chemo room for a long time. I had to remove my breast in 2001 and never had reconstruction surgery. In 2010 my cancer came back in the breast wall. I started developing lymphedema when my arms kept swelling and getting bigger and bigger. Right now, I come here to Touro every three weeks to do my chemo and once a week I come and do my physical therapy. I’ve been off and on doing lymphedema treatment because the swelling in my arm goes down then comes back again. Right now, my arm is better since I’ve been coming to treatment. I used to not be able to raise my arm up because it was so stiff and heavy. The treatment is definitely helping.
This program has meant a lot to me. Everyone here is so friendly. They wrap me and give me special treatment. I feel like a celebrity. Everyone here is so amazing and I just love them all. We are all a family here.
It’s been 18 years battling this cancer. I have a fighting chance and I know I am a survivor, and I am more and more enthusiastic that everything will be alright. I was healed one time and I will be healed again.
I am more than a survivor; I am very special.
"I'm more than a survivor. I'm in for the long haul and I feel like I'm going to do this and there's no stopping me."
See Virginia's Story
"Right now, I’m cancer-free. It has been a journey."
See Shanta's Story
I was diagnosed in 2013 at the age of 34 with HER2- breast cancer. Through my journey, I now have triple-negative breast cancer, which means I‘m estrogen, progesterone, and HER2 negative.
I was 34 and two semesters into nursing school when I was first diagnosed with stage 4 HER2- breast cancer. Since I was in stage 4, the cancer metastasized to both lungs and my bones. I went through all the treatments for the breast cancer, including 6 months of treatments. Luckily, I did not need radiation for the breast cancer, but I did need the radiation for my bones. At that point the treatment was palliative. We were just trying to keep this cancer at bay for as long as we could. After that I was on targeted therapy for six years, getting treatment every 21 days. My life completely changed, and this became my new normal.
I was on targeted therapy until November 2017. I went to go get my PET scans with Dr. Ramirez, who was very strict in making sure that we were on target with my treatment. I had frequent PET scans. That one PET scan came back and showed that I have adrenal metastases, completely out of the blue. I had to get a new biopsy, and it came back triple-negative – that’s when my cancer diagnosis changed. From there we had to change our therapy to treat something else.
At this point, there was a brand-new treatment that came out, so I began that treatment. I stayed on that treatment until May of 2019. Everything was going fine until my body started going crazy; I became acidotic, went into metabolic acidosis, and ended up in the hospital. While I was in the hospital, I started noticing that I was having these slight headaches and I started becoming off balance when I tried to get up. Dr. Ramirez ordered an MRI and it came back that my brain had metastasized. In June 2019 I had brain surgery, and luckily, they were able to resect it. I had radiation to the brain and to the adrenal glands.
Right now, I’m cancer-free. It has been a journey.
To be honest, I just take it day by day. I have bad days. Like I tell my patients: you’re going to have those bad days. Allow yourself to have those bad days because you will have them. When you have those good days, you grab on to them and go with it.
I have honestly come in contact with such knowledgeable people. The thing that I took from Touro is that these nurses here aren’t just here to collect a paycheck. They love what they do, and it shows. The patients feel that. That’s what made me want to come to work here. Now I’m able to share my experience with my patients to let them know “I’ve been through this. I’ve been where you are.” I cry with them in the beginning because I understand. It is totally scary and continues to be scary. You just learn how to deal with it. I tell my patients “as long as you’re going to fight, we’re going to fight along with you.”
I would love for people to take advantage of our cancer support group that we have. We have a wonderful survivorship program.
"I'm showing my kids strength."
See MarryAnne's Story
"Get your mammograms. That’s the thing, early detection makes a huge difference."
See Jennifer's Story
My name is Jennifer Mills Messina and I am an Obstetrician-Gynecologist at Touro. I feel like Dr. Daniel Rupley, the Radiologist at Touro, saved my life. He had wanted me to come in every six months to get a mammogram, not because he saw something suspicious, but because he knew I had dense breasts and he didn’t want to miss anything. In December of 2017, I went in for a mammogram and they found the cancer when it was so tiny you couldn’t even feel it. It was Stage 1 and wasn’t in my lymph nodes and it was all because of Dr. Rupley. It’s so crazy because it’s not in my family, my genetics tests came back negative, it’s like why did this happen?
I was so blessed because since we found it so early, I didn’t have to do chemo or radiation. I didn’t want to ever have to worry about the cancer coming back, so I had a double mastectomy.
My husband is amazing. He has been involved with the American Cancer Society for years and he’s part of their Real Men Wear Pink Campaign. I knew I wanted to do something to support the cancer society, but I just kept asking ‘What can I do?’ We have started fundraising with the goal of raising $40,000 for the American Cancer Society.
I’m more than a survivor, I am a loving wife. To tell you the truth, I always felt guilty for calling myself a survivor because I didn’t have to go through the chemo, and I didn’t have to go through the radiation. But I tell you, all of that has kind of changed a little bit recently.
Since becoming cancer-free, I’ve become an advocate for breast cancer awareness and preventative care. Get your mammograms. That’s the thing, early detection makes a huge difference.
"I always try to look at things and say someone else is experiencing something worse than I am."
See Donyel's Story
I was diagnosed on December 7, 2017. The irony of that is that my husband passed away on the same exact day of pancreatic cancer.
When we found out about my husband’s pancreatic cancer, they gave him 30 days to live. We had just found out I was pregnant at the same time. He fought really hard to see the baby born. When I lost the baby on our anniversary, it was like he really kind of just gave up on his fight. He felt like he was a burden and he was causing the stress that caused me to lose the baby. And that wasn’t the case.
After battling pancreatic cancer with my husband, the last thing on my mind was that I would go down a similar road with my own diagnosis.
I was originally diagnosed at another hospital but my family just felt like I needed a second opinion. One of my cousins found Dr. Colfry online and when I met him for the first time, it just felt right. He then put together the team that did my treatments and we even discussed different options for my treatment, including fertility. We discussed options that weren’t even a discussion at the other hospital. Just being given those options made everyone in my family feel so much better. That made us feel like we chose the right place for my treatment. I felt like my decision was already made that I stay at Touro because Dr. Colfry was very concerned, but also aggressive about getting the treatments done and making sure that we took the right steps for treatment. Dr. Colfry ordered more tests to complete to get a full scope of my health and to make sure all the cancer was caught.
There was a holdup and confusion about whether my cancer was stage 3 or stage 4 because when they found it, it was already at such a late stage. I went through 6 months of chemo with 3 different types of chemo drugs. I then took a month off and had a double mastectomy with reconstruction on September 10, 2018. I started radiation about a month after that. I finished at the end of last year and took another 30-day break and started physical therapy. I think the nurses here made things better for me. I was also lucky to have a lot of family support.
I started a cancer foundation in my husband’s namesake, the Scott Eli Foundation, because my way of grieving is giving back to others, and it’s a way of feeling like their loss isn’t in vain. While I was going through my last surgery, I made my dad and my fiancé deliver totes filled with toiletries, blankets, and pillows to other patients. They still had a few totes left after I came out of surgery. As soon as I was feeling better, I was in my hospital gown with a jacket on and started delivering the rest.
After dealing with cancer, losing my husband and our baby, my compassion for things is now so much bigger. I’ve always had compassion for a lot of different things and people, and just wanting to help and save the world, but it grew that much more after losing so much.
I always try to look at things and say someone else is experiencing something worse than I am, so I will carry the cross I am dealt with and keep moving.
I’m more than a survivor. I’m more than my circumstance.
People don’t know how to cope with their circumstances. People haven’t been given the tools to properly understand that the circumstances they are currently in, it’s just for a moment and it doesn’t define who you are or where you’re headed, even if it takes you to rock bottom at that moment.
"They treat you like an individual, not just as another number. They have given me a lot of hope."
See MaLou's Story
"I’m more than a survivor, I’m a mom, daughter, sister, and friend."
See Alison's Story
My first diagnosis was in January of 2016 with a non-invasive spot. I also tested positive for a genetic marker called Chek-2. I then opted for a double mastectomy in March of 2016. Some of the pathology reports from that came back positive for invasive HER2+ spots. We thought we had gotten rid of everything and taken everything out. I had a lymph node removed and the margins were really clear when they took them out.
After that, I had a baby and when he was six months old, I went back on a daily hormone blocker as a future preventative. It was really at the same time that I started taking the daily hormone blocker that I started feeling a lot of pain. It took about six months to figure out what was that was causing my pain because we weren’t sure if it was the new medication I was put on. It ended up being the return of the cancer that was making me hurt and I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer that had spread to my bones. We found out that I had some vertebrae that had been eaten up by the disease and that was the most painful part. I couldn’t pick up my baby and couldn’t really do anything for a while
On Christmas Eve I got my first radiation. Once I got the diagnosis and started treatment the pain got better pretty quickly. It was amazing because the hospital closed 2 days for Christmas and 2 days for New Years, but they got me in on New Year’s day because I was in so much pain, and they wanted to get me some relief. I had to come to the infusion center to get fluids a couple of times because the radiation was causing me to become really dehydrated. I started my chemo on January 24th, and that is when I met my dear friend Kim Jenkins. She has administered most of my treatments and she has been really helpful.
They’ve always made it as easy as can be – everyone here at Touro. Any time I call, they always know who I am and help me figure out my appointments. Since I come here for so many things, I try to be efficient in making sure I fit everything in within a couple of hours and if I come in early for an appointment, they know why and try to fit me in.
What they’ve told me is that it’s treatable, but not curable. I’m always going to be having treatments. Every three weeks for the rest of my life, I will have to come and sit in this chair and get two medicines. I had to do six rounds of the texotere, the big drug for breast cancer that makes you the sickest and lose your hair, so the ones I’m on now is targeted therapy. It’s to keep things from coming back and getting worse.
I’ve had radiation, chemotherapy, and now occupational therapy in the Cancer Rehab program. It’s been really cool because I’ve made friends and met other people who are going through what I’m going through. I heard about the Cancer Rehab program from Dr. Ramirez because I had always been really active before I started hurting so that was the hardest thing for me to give up. I used to go to the gym three times a week and losing that time for myself and the mental clearance, was really hard. That’s the nice thing about the Cancer Rehab program, I was finally able to do a little bit of activity which was a big step forward for me. The Cancer Rehab program is helping me gain a little bit of strength and helping me feel like myself again.
I’m more than a survivor, I’m a mom, daughter, sister, and friend.
“What I think the problem is with people that don't understand, not knowing is the scariest part. So if they look at me, I want them to look in the mirror and say 'This is the other side'"
See Kathleen's Story
"I’m a completely different person. I was so close to giving up, and this was my last hope."
See Janis' Story
They gave me several diagnoses, and the last one was stage 3 breast cancer with lymphatic involvement. I went to have a mammogram – I had not had a mammogram in about three years because I did not have health insurance, but before that, I had my mammograms religiously every year. When I went, I just knew that something was wrong. They came out and said, “we want you to have more test done” and I was officially diagnosed on October 23, 2013. At first, it was diagnosed as stage 2 breast cancer, and I thought “that’s no problem, I can handle that.” Later it was diagnosed as a stage three with lymphatic involvement.
We started the treatment and I was scheduled for 6 months of the “red devil chemo”. They call it the red devil because it’s the most effective chemo available and the subsequent reactions are horrible. After the third round of the red devil, my skin came off one night in bed. I couldn’t walk anymore. At my next appointment, I told them that we need to change the treatment because I couldn’t do it anymore, I was dying. I was pretty sick throughout the chemo and had my plan b in place. I was planning on going to Ecuador and retiring there at 63 and I thought to myself “I may not be going to Ecuador but think about the trip I’m going to have.” I had really come face to face with my mortality.
At this point, the cancer tumor had shrunk by 90% so they were able to change my chemo to something milder. I slowly regained my strength and I made a turn for the better. I felt like I was going to live. The next step was the radiation, which was optional, but I was so angry with the cancer at that time I decided to go forward with the radiation. I had 35 rounds of radiation and compared to the red devil; it was nothing. I got through that and had to wait for the skin to heal for the reconstruction surgery. I had a double mastectomy and diep flap reconstruction. I told the plastic surgeon “If I’m going to be dead in three years, I don’t want to have this done” and he said, “Janice, I have a feeling you will be around for a long long time.” That involved two surgeries 8-10 hours each.
Once I was healed for the surgery, I packed up my bags and headed to Ecuador where I lived for 4 ½ years. After about three years I started having really bad neuropathy symptoms and about six months ago I started developing lymphedema. I saw many doctors in Ecuador who wanted me to use a cane, and another one said I had scoliosis, and I knew that was not it. I came back home to the states for help. I was looking for help for 3-4 months and the pain was just indescribable. I went through my insurance company and was sent to a physical therapy place that I knew couldn’t address my needs.
I finally found the Touro Cancer Rehab Center for post-cancer treatment, which was exactly what I needed. I was in so much pain and I don’t even remember what I told them when I first met them because I was so discouraged. This place has literally been a lifesaver for me. I’m so much more mobile, the pain is ¾ of the way gone and the treatment has really been a big factor in that. I can feel my arms tingling, I’m walking better. It’s a combination of the Anodyne Therapy and the exercises we’re doing here. It’s night and day, I’m a completely different person. I was so close to giving up, and this was my last hope.
I am more than a survivor; I am a writer and an activist.
"It was like they were all angels brought to me at the right time."
See Gail's Story
"I am more than cancer. I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a friend, and I will be an advocate for those who come behind me."
See Karen's Story
"You had a life before they said cancer, and after treatment is complete, you have an even fuller life."
See Lauren's Story
"They have taken the worry from me and put it all on them."
See Leigh's Story
"Everybody is fantastic. The doctors, therapists, counselors and staff at Touro are all amazing."
See Jeanne's Story
Proud to be a Breast Cancer Survivor
In her free time, Jeanne Eddington enjoys riding her bike and walking in fundraisers, such as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. It never crossed her mind that she would one day be a breast cancer survivor, and this race will hold new meaning to her. Eddington faithfully receives her mammogram every year. Two years ago, she went in for her mammography appointment, and they found white spots in her mammogram. The spots were calcium deposits, and it wasn’t a concern. The following year, she saw white spots again on her breast ultrasound. She was told to go to the Imaging Center for further testing. Eddington thought it was calcium deposits again. Unfortunately, she was told it was breast cancer.
On June 20, 2018, Eddington was diagnosed with HER2-negative breast cancer in her left breast. HER2-negative breast cancer has little or no HER2 protein, which means cancer cells grow more slowly than HER2-positive. Cancer cells are also less likely to spread to other parts of the body. “It took a while to register that I had breast cancer. I asked the radiologist if he had the right person. I sat there and cried. I went in the parking lot and called my job and cried again,” says Eddington.
On July 2, Eddington scheduled her first appointment with Breast Surgical Oncologist John Colfry, MD. He reassured Eddington that she was in good hands. He gave her two options: lumpectomy or mastectomy. “That was the only decision I made on my own. After making this decision, I put my care into my doctors’ hands,” says Eddington. At the end of July, Eddington had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer from her left breast.
The Best Support System
During her follow up care, Dr. Colfry ordered an Oncotype DX test for Eddington. The test helps doctors to determine the risk of recurrence with breast cancer and if the patient should have chemotherapy. Eddington’s levels on her test came back extremely high, which means she had a high chance of reoccurrence. Eddington met with Hematologist Oncologist George Zacharia, MD, and she started chemotherapy. “I continued to work during this time. I would schedule off from work on Fridays for my chemotherapy appointments,” says Eddington. “I worked in a clinic, and the nurses I worked with would constantly monitor me. They were very sympathetic and caring towards me.” After chemotherapy, Eddington received radiation therapy for six weeks.
After chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Eddington started going to the Touro Cancer Rehabilitation Center. The goal of cancer rehabilitation is to help patients return to the highest level of function and independence possible while improving the overall quality of life physically, emotionally, and socially. The program is designed to meet the needs of the individual patient, depending on the specific type of cancer and treatment they had.
Moreover, the program offers lymphedema treatment. Whenever the normal drainage pattern in the lymph nodes are disturbed or damaged, severe swelling of the arm and abnormal collection of fluid may occur. This is called lymphedema. Eddington received lymphedema treatment due to having several of her lymph nodes removed and from radiation therapy.
“I wanted to get back to exercising and my normal life,” says Eddington. “I’m working on getting my balance back as well.” Eddington raves about the therapists in the Touro Cancer Rehabilitation Program. “My biggest goal is to walk in the Susan G. Komen race again as a breast cancer survivor,” says Eddington.
Eddington has touched every aspect of the Cancer Care Program at Touro Infirmary. Touro’s Cancer Program is accredited by the Commission on Cancer, which is recognized as the gold standard in cancer care. The program provides comprehensive care and support throughout every step of the patients’ cancer journey. Licensed Professional Counselor Vera Deluca persuaded Eddington to join the Cancer Survivorship Support Group at Touro Infirmary. “After retiring from my job, I became a little depressed. I lost my support system at my job,” says Eddington. The support group has really helped Eddington to cope with her life after breast cancer.
Eddington also created a Survivorship Care Plan with Cancer Survivorship Coordinator Paula Harrelson. “Vera and Paula are so supportive and encouraging. I am grateful for them both,” says Eddington. The Cancer Survivorship Program at Touro gives patients a chance to meet one-on-one with an oncology nurse that specializes in addressing specific issues survivors may face during treatment and in the years following. The support groups include the Cancer Survivorship Support Group and the Gynecologic Cancer Support Group. The group provides mental, emotional, spiritual, and social support from the time a patient is diagnosed through their treatment and beyond.
Eddington is dedicated to living a healthy life without a breast cancer reoccurrence. She has decided to continue her care at Touro Infirmary because she is pleased with the treatment that she has received at Touro. “Everybody is fantastic. The doctors, therapists, counselors and staff at Touro are all amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better team at Touro,” says Eddington. With National Cancer Survivors Day on June 2nd, Eddington looks forward to celebrating life and continuing to share her story of survivorship. “I am proud to be a breast cancer survivor and a Touro patient.”
"I enjoy going to Dr. Zacharia. He is very friendly, caring and concerned. It is always nice to see him."
See Diane's Story
A Family’s Connection to Touro Through the Years
Diane Helvie was born and raised in New Orleans. In the early 70s, she worked as a nurse at Touro Infirmary. Over the next several years, Diane met her husband and they welcomed two beautiful children. The family moved to Alabama where Diana went back to school, majoring in French Studies at Auburn University.
While they enjoyed their time in Alabama, Diane and her children eventually made their way back to New Orleans – and were happy to be home again. Diane crossed paths with Touro again in 2015 when her son Stewart suffered a head injury. He was treated at Touro Infirmary. Diane speaks highly of his experience and recovery at Touro. “It was personal and intimate,” says Diane.
Diane has also celebrated new life at Touro, welcoming her granddaughter who was born at Touro on November 9, 2016. Touro has been there in different ways for everyone in her family, most recently for Diane herself.
Self-Awareness Saves Lives
In August of 2017, Diane felt a lump in her left breast through a regular self-breast examination. “I do a self-breast exam every month. When I felt my left breast, I thought it felt different from my right breast,” recalls Diane.
She quickly called to schedule a mammogram. Diane’s intuition was confirmed, and the mammogram discovered a triple negative tumor, which is stage two breast cancer. Diane was referred to Touro Hematologist Oncologist George Zacharia, MD. Under Dr. Zacharia’s care, she immediately began chemotherapy. Diane received sixteen rounds of chemotherapy, initially once per week and gradually decreased to once every two weeks.
Due to Diane’s self-awareness and urgency, her cancer was detected early. A triple negative breast cancer responds best to chemotherapy in the earlier stages than many other forms of cancer. On December 27, she completed her last chemotherapy session in Touro’s Infusion Center.
Diane raves about the nurses and the staff in the Infusion Center, and she knows everyone by their name. “They were great to me,” says Diane. “They would reach out to me at home to see how I was doing. I miss them!” She also adds, “I enjoy their comradery and positivity.”
After the completion of her chemotherapy, Diane underwent a double mastectomy in February of 2018. The mastectomy revealed that her nodes were negative, and her cancer was in remission!
Diane periodically visits Dr. Zacharia for follow up care. During her appointments, they discuss her diet, physical health and mental health. Dr. Zacharia’s main goal is for Diane to live a healthy, happy life without a recurrence.
“I enjoy going to Dr. Zacharia. He is very friendly, caring and concerned,” she says. “It is always nice to see him. He is very warm and welcoming, and I appreciate his youthfulness and honesty.”
Diane believes she wouldn’t have been able to get through this experience without the support of the staff, nurses and Dr. Zacharia. She also believes her experience in healthcare has helped her to better understand the process. She is forever grateful for the care that she has received and wants to return the favor.
"I feel like shouting from the rooftops about the Cancer Rehab Program."
See Lesley's Story
Over two years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I decided to go through treatment at Touro Infirmary because I liked that Touro treats the whole person, both physically and spiritually. I had a bilateral mastectomy, partial reconstruction, chemotherapy and reconstruction again. Everyone at Touro made me feel like I was the only patient. I met Lil at a Cancer Support Group, and she informed me about the Cancer Rehabilitation Program.
My life has been saved twice through cancer treatment and the Cancer Rehabilitation Program. After treatment, I could barely move and keep my balance, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. My therapist Frannie helped me set realistic goals and find a balance in life. My head used to spin while trying to fall asleep, and she taught me techniques to ease my mind. I adapted a healthy diet and exercise regimen because of the support from Frannie. I do weight training and yoga. I have built up my core to help with my balance. I also do stretching to help my scar tissue.
The Cancer Rehabilitation Program has helped me to go back to work. Before Frannie, I couldn't paint or write on the chalkboard. I am now able to move around when I teach my class and can even do art with the children without feeling any pain. I have even shared some of the relaxation and stretching techniques with my students. I feel like shouting from the rooftops about the Cancer Rehab Program. I am thankful to have the Touro Cancer Rehab Program on this journey with me.
"The people at Touro have absolutely wonderful personalities. I received excellent care."
See Paula's Story
From college basketball player to trial counsel to judge, Paula has never been one to sit still for long. Dealing with two life-changing issues at the same time wasn’t enough to slow her down either.
As her mother is a breast cancer survivor, Paula took the proactive approach and began having mammograms early. A mammogram at Touro in February was flagged for follow-up in April. In mid-April, Paula had something else on her agenda as well—she had decided to run for judge in Civil District Court.
She returned on April 23 to hear the results of her biopsy.
“I went by myself to the appointment, even after a friend offered to go with me—I thought it was nothing,” she said. “I saw Dr. Rupley, and I asked him, ‘So are you the doctor who is going to tell me the good news?’”
When the news was that the biopsy was abnormal, Paula was certainly not prepared.
“I remember he was very compassionate,” she said. “He tried not to minimize it, and explained that it was stage 0. I remember crying and saying, ‘But I’m supposed to run for judge!’ He actually made me laugh.”
After a lumpectomy performed by Dr. Levin, Paula was scheduled for several weeks of radiation treatments. With a campaign for an October election in full swing, Paula was ready to fight her cancer—fast.
“The radiation was in and out,” she said. “The hardest part was getting up and getting there on time early in the morning, then campaigning all day.”
“The people at Touro have absolutely wonderful personalities. I received excellent care. Part of me was saddened by having breast cancer, but mainly I was concerned about it interrupting my life. I am very blessed that it was stage 0.”
"The cap is working for me. To others, my hair looks normal, and they would have never guessed that I had five chemo treatments."
See Amanda's Story
Touro patient Amanda Schwald was among the first patients to benefit from the Paxman Scalp Cooling System at Touro.
“I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason,” says Schwald. “A week before Thanksgiving 2017, I got a call from Dr. Cheng’s office that the Paxman Cooling Cap arrived to Touro right before my first chemo session. Paxman overnighted my cap, and I started chemotherapy on November 29,” says Schwald.
“The cap is working for me. To others, my hair looks normal, and they would have never guessed that I had five chemo treatments,” says Schwald.