Breast Cancer Patient Draws Her Way Through Treatment
A nurse for almost 40 years, Therese Galvan understands the critical importance of finding the right place to get care and treatment. So when a lump she discovered in her left breast was found to be malignant, she turned to the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox.
For the 60-year-old Mokena resident and mother of four, being able to have surgery, radiation, physical therapy and follow-up visits and consultations close to home made her cancer treatment and recovery less stressful. But Therese said it was the expert medical care she received that made the real difference.
The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross features a team of specialists that can offer state-of-the-art treatment options, including advanced clinical trials, in a convenient community hospital setting. For the most challenging cases, the Center offers easy access to therapies.
“Having doctors from the University of Chicago Medicine on my case was a big plus to me,” said Therese.
Her treatment team included Reza Gamagami, MD, a surgeon at Silver Cross, along with medical oncologist Sunil Narula, MD, and Anne McCall, MD, Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross.
Therese was familiar with some physicians in the cancer program before starting treatment. “Dr. Narula has a good reputation for treating his patients with care and compassion,” she said. “A friend of mine is a patient of his as well, so when I needed care, he was my first choice.”
The multidisciplinary team comes together at the Tuesday morning Breast Conference to discuss treatment strategies for patients. “By getting all the specialists into the room, including oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, and pathologists, we can put together a plan that considers all aspects of the patient’s needs,” Dr. McCall said.
Therese’s treatment plan included two lumpectomy surgeries to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by radiation therapy. In order to avoid exposing Thereses heart and lungs to radiation, advanced technologies and procedure were used. Deep-inspiration breath-hold (DIBH) is a technique in which the patient takes a deep breath and holds it briefly to move the heart and lungs out of the radiation field during the treatment. The procedure also includes the use of VisionRT surface imaging, which tracks the patient to an exact degree so that radiation is applied only when the patient is in the best possible position.
“The procedure is great for patients receiving treatment for tumors in the left breast,” said Christopher Stepaniak, PhD, lead physicist at the center, who played a key role in determining Therse’s radiation plan. “It’s non-invasive and helps us deliver radiation at the exact right moment. Because it limits the effects of cardiac toxicity, it’s a great approach for treatment of breast cancer in younger women.”
For Therese, preparing for radiation treatment required a unique approach, “I had to practice holding my breath for 15 seconds at a time,” she said. “That’s actually a long time to hold your breath. I’d visualize swimming underwater or count to take my mind off of it.”
Best of all, she could continue working part-time while undergoing treatment. Because her energy levels remained relatively good, she often worked on the same days she received treatment, “If I had radiation or rehab on days I was scheduled to work, I’d clock out and get treatment, then go back to the office. It was very convenient,” she said.
In addition to providing deep expertise and access to innovative treatments and clinical trials, the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital also provides a host of support services to patients and their families and caretakers. Support groups and classes, dietary counseling, and rehabilitation information are all available whenever needed. The Cancer Support Center offers wellness navigator consultations, a men’s support group, survivor celebrations and gentle yoga classes, all amenities that have made a difference in the lives of Silver Cross patients.
Therese’s recovery has gone according to plan, with no major complications. Side effects have been limited mostly to some swelling in her left arm and hands, and a rigorous physical therapy regimen through the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago at Silver Cross Hospital is helping her recover quickly. As a way of contemplating, relaxing, and focusing her energies, Therese creates illustrations using the “Zentangle” method. In a Zentangle, deliberative strokes of the pen build off each other to make intricate forms that can be evocative and freeing for both the creator and viewer.
Therese’s care experiences have made it easy for her to recommend the Center. “During my treatment, I got to meet so many other women, some of whom were traveling really far to get to Silver Cross,” she said. “They were thrilled with the service they’d received.”
To make an appointment, call 1-855-UCM-1400.