Marseilles Woman Drives past Local Hospital to Receive Breast Cancer Care at Silver Cross Hospital
Cathleen (Cathy) Larsen is a model patient. The Marseilles grandmother of two never misses her annual health screenings and checkups. In fact, she’s so committed to good health, she reminds her family and friends to do the same.
As a retired public health nurse from the LaSalle County Health Department , which included working with the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, she’s a self-described advocate for getting a mammogram every single year. Cathy always practiced what she preached and had her annual mammogram done in October of 2017, but the year ahead of her would be different for her in more ways than one. In the spring of 2018 and at 61 years old, she would be retiring.
She was elated to spend more time with her husband, Jerry, her adult children, Jason and Sarah, and her beautiful granddaughters Taylor and Bailey, now 6 and 8 years old. But her excitement came to an abrupt pause when she received communication about her October mammogram: “additional imaging required.” Those three little words stopped Cathy in her tracks. She’d never had an abnormal mammogram before, and she was terrified.
She went back to the mammography facility where she had her screening – near her home in Marseilles – and underwent a battery of further testing including a diagnostic ultrasound, a core biopsy and a needle aspiration. Doctors found a cancerous tumor in her right breast and told her she needed a stereotactic breast biopsy to identify the abnormality.
Cathy the nurse, who knows so much and was always helping others, found herself directionless with no help or guidance from the experts around her. “The hospital I was at, where I have received all of my prior screenings, really didn’t offer comprehensive care.” She knew it was time to find a new hospital to continue her care.
“Having an experience with a doctor who, in the hour you needed the most support and focus, did not provide much direction or guidance was really a game-changer for me.” With that, Cathy left the hospital close to home and began a journey to find a new hospital and new doctors with her family by her side.
The Search for Quality Care
Scared and angry, Cathy knew she had to pull herself together and find a breast center where she would receive direction, counseling, insight and support from a team of skilled and highly qualified physicians. “I didn’t want to have to tell my story over and over again to different doctors and nurses,” she explained. “I wanted to be able to come to one facility and know that each member of the care team knew me and my history.”
In her search, she found Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox and discovered it had a comprehensive on-site Breast Center. “I really felt like I would receive everything I needed on the campus of Silver Cross Hospital. It was very attractive to me that they not only had the Breast Center, but that the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center is also in the same building – truly one stop shopping for my personal healthcare needs,” she said. “I looked up the physicians in the Breast Center and landed on Dr. Maria Rapciak. I called on a Friday and was in her office the next Monday.”
Cathy knew that was a good sign! “My first appointment with her went so well. I felt comfortable immediately. She wanted to know who I am! In sharing our backgrounds, I felt that she and I had the same mission: to help others stay well. “
Together, Dr. Rapciak and Cathy made a plan, which included a thorough review of Cathy’s tumor and pathology by the hospital’s tumor review board, so that her treatment course could begin immediately.
At her first appointment, Dr. Rapciak also arranged for Cathy to visit Dr. Shayan Rayani at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer center to review her case on the very same day. Cathy’s type of breast cancer, HER2-Positive, is a breast cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cells.
Dr. Rayani and Dr. Rapciak prescribed Herceptin, which Cathy describes as a “lifesaving drug.” Though she felt fatigued and lost her hair, she also experience high points, like when her daughter and granddaughters accompanied her to the hair salon for a “short, pixie style” cut.
She underwent a lumpectomy at Silver Cross Hospital last December and went home the very same day. Thanks to supportive family and friends – and great care at Silver Cross – Cathy said she was able to make the “best out of a bad experience.” Cathy’s Herceptin treatments continue today and she is about to begin her 5-day a week radiation treatment. She says some days are more tiring than others, but she feels good!
“After I experienced the open and compassionate demeanor of Dr. Rapciak, I never looked back,” she adds.
Dr. Rapciak is a breast and general surgeon affiliated with Silver Cross Hospital through
Advanced Surgical Consultants located in Homer Glen. When asked about her style of treatment, Dr. Rapciak said, “I strongly believe in providing excellence through a patient centered holistic treatment plan; including patient preferences, education, and advanced treatment options.”
Complete Breast Care in One Location at Silver Cross Hospital
The Breast Center at Silver Cross Hospital provides convenient, comprehensive care for patients needing access to pre- and post-surgical services. Located within the Center for Women’s Health, patients have access to highly skilled surgeons who will evaluate and manage patients with breast pain, benign lumps and cysts, those with abnormal mammograms as well as those facing breast cancers. Whether diagnosed at Silver Cross or elsewhere, call (815) 300-6350. A certified breast health nurse will schedule the initial appointment and assist in coordinating the next steps in care including any additional diagnostic testing including breast ultrasound, breast MRI, or stereotactic breast biopsy to determine whether a lump is benign or cancerous.