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Dreams Do Come True

Dreams Do Come True

During her four years of treatment for lymphoma, Elaine Johnson often recalled advice from a much-loved Disney character. “Just keep swimming,” she’d tell herself. She dreamed of beating cancer and spending more time in the Magic Kingdom.

Elaine, 57, is a huge Disney fan. And her care team at UChicago Medicine’s Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital knows all about it.

Dr. Grace Suh

“When I came for appointments, the nurses and doctors talked to me about my love for all things Disney,” said Elaine, who lives in New Lenox, not far from the hospital where she got much of her cancer care. “It got my mind off of what was going on.”

Elaine was diagnosed with large B-cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, in May 2014. She and her husband, Jerry, were aware that UChicago Medicine specialists provide comprehensive cancer services at Silver Cross Hospital.

“Jerry and I felt the cancer center staff in New Lenox would be the same caliber as the oncologists at UChicago Medicine in Hyde Park,” Elaine said.

Medical oncologist Grace Suh, MD, says the cancer program at Silver Cross offers patients the best of both worlds. “We combine the science and research of a world-class cancer center with the feel of a community hospital,” she said.

For the next two years, Elaine received all her treatment at Silver Cross, undergoing several courses of chemotherapy. When the aggressive cancer failed to go into remission, she was referred to oncologist Michael Bishop, MD, an expert in cellular therapies for blood cancers who sees patients at both locations.

Bishop managed Elaine’s care as she underwent two advanced treatments — a stem cell transplant and then CAR T-cell therapy, a new immunotherapy for blood cancers, which at the time was available only at select centers across the country through a clinical trial. Those treatments took place on UChicago Medicine’s campus, but whenever possible, Elaine’s check-ups, blood work and scans were performed at Silver Cross.

“We helped Elaine and her family navigate her care at the two facilities,” Suh said. “Our goal was to give her the best care possible so she could get her life back.” Added Bishop, “And get her back to Disney World.”

Now, two years after her last cancer treatment, Elaine is thrilled to be taking extended vacations to the theme parks, where her daughter Rachel is a cast member. But Elaine will continue to see Suh, Bishop and the other cast members in her Silver Cross cancer team for follow-up care. “The staff at Silver Cross are like family now,” Elaine said. “We’ll always come back here.”

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