Breast Cancer: How Your Care Team Makes All the Difference

When 63-year-old Peggy Cappel’s routine mammogram showed a suspicious mass in February 2014, she wasn’t too anxious. This has happened before. So, per her doctor’s instructions, the Delhi Township resident had a second mammogram at the Good Samaritan Hospital Breast Center.

But, this time, it wasn’t a benign calcium deposit.

Days later, Peggy had a follow-up breast ultrasound and MRI as well as a biopsy at the Breast Center, which confirmed she had a cancerous lump in her breast. That’s when she was referred to breast surgeon at the TriHealth Cancer Institute.

Peggy needed distraction. "I really just had to put it out of my mind," she recalls.

Peggy's Attentive Care Team Eased Her Concerns

Just four days after her biopsy, Peggy was scheduled to leave for a 10-day trip to Florida to visit her son and grandchildren – and during this time, her cancer care team treated Peggy as if she were their only patient. They even called Peggy the night before she left to schedule a follow-up appointment as soon as Peggy returned, just to give her that extra peace of mind. 

In fact, Peggy’s flight home to Cincinnati landed at 1 p.m. and her breast surgeon saw Peggy that same day.

During the appointment, Peggy's breast surgeon sat down with she and her husband to explain the type of cancer, how aggressive it was (it was stage I) and treatment options. Right then, Peggy decided on the following action plan: She would have only the lump removed, and during surgery, a tube would be inserted so she could have radiation directly into the breast, twice daily for five days post-surgery. “It seemed small enough and we were convinced it would be fine,” Peggy explains.

A Shocking Discovery

If only it were that easy. Peggy, still groggy from her anesthesia, doesn’t recall much from post-op; however, she does remember feeling anxious. “When I saw my husband, his first comment was, ‘Well, you can take showers,’” she recalls. That was her cue. “We knew if I had the tubes put in, I would not be able to take showers.

Peggy's breast surgeon found that the cancer had spread to Peggy’s lymph nodes. Her cancer was now in stage II.

From there, Peggy was referred to Gina Matacia MD, a medical oncologist with the TriHealth Cancer Institute. Dr. Matacia outlined multiple treatment options and statistics on the prognosis for each, which included four to six weeks of chemotherapy treatment sessions, three weeks apart; however, Peggy, knowing the potential adverse side effects of chemo, was not convinced it was the right option.

Weighing Her Options

Peggy spent the next two weeks praying, talking with friends and doing research. She was torn. Dr. Matacia ordered an Oncotype DX diagnostic test to help define how aggressive the cancer was so Peggy could have more clarity before making her treatment decision. The test revealed that on a scale of one to 100, Peggy’s cancer ranked an 18, meaning it was on the high end of low, but the low end of medium.

Dr. Matacia and her nurses still advised that Peggy go through chemo, but as someone who’s been healthy her entire life, Peggy ultimately decided she couldn’t justify putting her body under the stress of chemo treatments. So Dr. Matacia referred Peggy to Daniel White MD, a radiation oncologist at the TriHealth Cancer Institute, who worked with Peggy to determine a treatment plan she felt comfortable pursuing.

“He got me in very quickly, too! Waiting is the worst part,” Peggy says. She started six weeks of radiation treatments on April 21 at Good Samaritan Hospital, and during her 30 treatments, she was overwhelmed by how considerate her care team was. In fact, she was so impressed, she wrote a note to the team to express her gratitude: “They were just wonderful, every day. Dr. White himself is a very kind man but, his nurses and technicians were undoubtedly the friendliest and most competent a team as one could possibly want,” she wrote.

Between parking and the length of her appointments, Peggy also appreciated the convenience of her radiation appointments, joking that her commute took longer than the actual therapy. Shortly after radiation therapy ended, Peggy started taking Arimidex, an estrogen-suppressing pill she will need to take for the next five years (her breast cancer was estrogen-produced).

Looking Back, Peggy was Touched by the Kindness of Those She Meet Along the Way

Throughout radiation, Peggy continued her normal routine, which included walking 18 holes of golf at Miami View Golf Club, two and three times a week. Now, she’s back to babysitting her grandkids (she has 13 total) and is looking forward to an out-of-town wedding in September as well as another trip to visit her Florida family in the fall.

While she describes the last few months as a “rock in the road,” she is thankful for the care – and help navigating her cancer journey – she received with the TriHealth Cancer Institute. “For what was a not so great time in my life, it was made much nicer by the kindness, promptness and smiles of all I met along the way,” she adds.

Tags Cancer