Finding Courage: Robotic Surgery Makes Post-Treatment Healing Easier After Cancer Diagnosis

As anyone who has experienced it knows, receiving a callback after a mammogram is a nerve-wracking experience. For Mary Lou Manegold, the “difficult day” occurred in 2013, when a second mammogram detected a lump indicating cancer.

As a TriHealth employee, Mary Lou knew she was already in an environment where she would receive excellent care. After she underwent surgery to remove the breast lump, it was determined that she required radiation. But first she had to grapple with her emotions: “After the diagnosis, I was completely outside my comfort zone. And I was so embarrassed that I made my radiation appointments during my lunch break, so no one would know.”

Mary Lou’s ensuing weeks of treatment at the TriHealth Cancer Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital put her at ease and made her glad she’d chosen the TriHealth Cancer Institute for her care. “The radiation techs were wonderful and patient,” she says. With their compassionate care and the support of her husband, Ed, her children and her friends, she successfully completed her treatments.

Two years later, at age 54, Mary Lou found herself back in the same place of shock and confusion. Test results from a gynecologist’s visit indicated endometrial carcinoma.

A Way to Help Others

“Everything moved very quickly after that,” says Mary Lou. “And that’s when I was teamed up with Dr. Schuler.” Mary Lou found Kevin Schuler, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at TriHealth, to be down-to-earth, patient and informative.

Dr. Schuler recommended removing lymph nodes as a precautionary measure. Mary Lou agreed to be part of a study Dr. Schuler was working on. “If I could help someone else,” says Mary Lou, “then I felt my situation had some added purpose.”

“This study allowed us to find the lymph nodes where the cancer was located better than what would be traditionally performed,” explains Dr. Schuler, “with the goal that for women like Mary Lou, we wouldn’t have to remove more nodes than necessary. The fact that a positive lymph node was seen changed Mary Lou’s prognosis and therapy. And her participation also had a positive impact on the outcomes for other patients.”

Taking Advantage of Robotic Surgery

Dr. Schuler performed the total hysterectomy and lymph-node removal that Mary Lou needed utilizing robotic-assisted surgery.

Robotic surgery provides surgeons with a 3D view of the surgical field and the ability to operate with increased precision. TriHealth surgeons train extensively to gain the neces- sary expertise and have performed the most procedures in Ohio, according to Intuitive Surgical, maker of the da Vinci Surgical System. Patients benefit from fewer complications and less post-operative pain, leading to faster recovery. Afterward, Mary Lou was prescribed a round of chemotherapy and radiation. Dr. Schuler and the TriHealth nursing staff work as a tight-knit team. “They met with me and gave me helpful hints about everything I could expect.”

Dr. Schuler believes this integrated approach is crucial. “We like to provide com- plete control of surgery and chemo. We run the ship—with a nursing team that provides each patient with a unified front.”

The treatments were not always easy, Mary Lou concedes. “I had beautiful hair, and it started coming out. One day while driving, I pulled over to the side of the road and pulled out huge clumps. Then I said, ‘C’est la vie’ as I let it blow out the window. It was a good lesson. I could do this.”

Cancer was a life-changer for Mary Lou: “It makes you appreciate the goodness of others and how many people truly care for you. It also makes you realize your own courage.”

Tags Cancer , Innovation and Research , Robotics