Breast Cancer Survivor Paying it Forward as a Volunteer at Siona Health Care Boutique at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross
Over ten years ago, Cheryl Otsuka was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. During her regular monthly breast exams, she found a lump. What she felt was a non-cancerous cyst, however, underneath the growth was a large, stage-3 cancerous mass that already aggressively spread to her lymphnodes. She then had two lumptecomies in her left breast, 22 lymphnodes removed, which 17 were cancerous, and underwent a series of radiation and chemotherapy treatments. After these invasive procedures, she went to the Siona Health Care Boutique to learn techniques and tools to help prevent any future occurrences of lymphedema. Now a decade later, Otsuka has decided to help other cancer patients by sharing her time as a volunteer at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital.
“I volunteer to pay it forward,” states the Mokena resident. “I get inspired by sharing my cancer experience with other patients and their families. We all have the same worries in life and by sharing your experience, your troubles are divided.”
Like many cancer patients, Otsuka was highly susceptible to developing lymphedema, which is a condition caused by the removal of or damage to the lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment. It results from a blockage in the lymphatic system, which prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and the fluid buildup in soft body tissues leads to swelling. Lymphedema usually affects an arm or leg, but it can also affect other parts of the body.
“We remind our patients that they have a lot to live for, and encourage them to be compliant in order to have a better quality of life. Cheryl has been a model patient,” said Siona Bitton, owner of Siona Health Care, Certified Orthotist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist. “She has followed our prevention advice and has had no occurrences of lymphedema.”
Cheryl believes the support she received from Siona Health Care has allowed her to flourish. “Since my cancer was on my left side, Siona taught me to maneuver without using my left side as much, so not to trigger a lymphedema flare-up,” said Otsuka.
Siona also told Cheryl not to sleep on her left side or pick up anything over a few pounds with her left arm. “And when I do need to use my left arm while gardening, I need to wear my compression sleeve. I can even still play golf. Siona truly helps you live your life to the fullest.”
“Wearing a compression garment is an effective method to prevent a lymphedema occurrence,” said Bitton. “For Cheryl wearing a compression sleeve enables the fluid in her arm to keep flowing while she uses her left arm.”
How Do You Know if You Triggered a Lymphedema Flare Up?
“It is so important to be in tune with your body,” said Bitton. “If a patient feels a heaviness, tightness or tingling in an arm before any swelling occurs, they more than likely have triggered a lymphedema episode. We teach our patients to not ignore what their body is telling them. We instruct them to wear compression garments routinely and be mindful of their movements while engaging in certain activities.”
“I was so surprised to learn that lymphedema can be triggered by simply taking an airplane ride,” said Otsuka. “I didn’t realize that the changes in cabin pressure can even trigger a lymphedema episode,” said Otsuka.
Area cancer patients now have access to an innovative shop called Siona Health Care Boutique at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital. The Siona Boutique staff collaborates with oncology physicians, surgeons and therapists from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital (RIC) offering specialized products and services conveniently in one location to help aid cancer patients with their physical and emotional healing.
Personalized and Convenient Care
For over twenty years, the Siona Health Care Boutique has specialized in services that lead to a better quality of life and shorter recovery time. These customized services include orthopedic rehabilitation services; lymphedema sleeve fitting treatments, arm and leg assist; compression sleeves, gloves and stockings; breast forms; weighted and non-weighted post-mastectomy lingerie garments; wigs and hats; swimwear; surgical camisoles; non-metallic deodorant and other skin care products.
“Most often a cancer diagnosis leaves the patient feeling confused or overwhelmed, and suddenly faced with shopping for a product and service they may know little or nothing about, and this is where we can help,” said Bitton. “Our patients’ natural appearance is our goal with every fitting, and our world-class team of certified orthotists and fitters are committed to providing the highest quality of care.”
The Siona Health Care Boutique accepts Medicare and Medicaid and most insurances including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Aetna, and Cigna. Verification of patients insurance will be confirmed prior to appointment. To schedule a private consultation Monday or Friday between 12:30 to 4 p.m. at the Siona Health Care Boutique at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital, call (800) 550-0680.
Free Survivorship & Caregiver Party
All cancer survivors (in or out of treatment) and caregivers (family members) are invited to enjoy the following: snacks and giveaways, smoothie demonstration, “caring for the caregivers” break-out sessions and gentle chair yoga sessions. This free event is co-hosted by the Cancer Support Center and will occur on Friday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital, 1850 Silver Cross Blvd, New Lenox. For more information, call the UCM Cancer Center at Silver Cross at (815) 300-1400 or the Cancer Support Center at (708) 478-3529.