It’s Personal: Your Body, Your Cancer Care
Monday, January 30, 2023
“I’m the duckbilled platypus of my family,” Sherry Sims said with a giggle. “I have body parts no one else has.” Sherry further explained her humorous self-description by saying she has strong legs that can easily press 200 lbs. and a tiny upper body that can’t manage a pull-up.
Although comfortable with her differences, there was a family trait Sherry tried to avoid. Two maternal aunts battled breast cancer. One of them passed away from the disease. “I always knew cancer was possible,” she said, “but you never think it’s going to happen to you.”
Due to her family medical history, Sherry religiously performed monthly breast self-examinations. “I never even thought of missing an annual mammogram,” she said.
That is, until COVID-19 swept the country. “I almost ignored a yearly mammogram because of COVID-19. However, when it was time for my mammogram, I figured if they’re brave enough to offer the screening, I should be brave enough to get one,” Sherry said. “If I had waited another year, I don’t know what my prognosis would have been. It could have been a totally different outcome.”
Sherry’s mammogram revealed a suspicious shadow on her right breast, so she received a biopsy at the Genesis Cancer Care Center. The result was a diagnosis of ER-positive, HER2 negative breast cancer.
Once diagnosed, a nurse navigator explained three surgery options to Sherry and her husband. She could have the tumor removed (a lumpectomy), the entire breast and tumor removed (a mastectomy), or both breasts and the tumor removed (a double mastectomy). She didn’t want to worry about reoccurring cancer, so she chose a double mastectomy without reconstruction.
A specialized surgeon at the Genesis Cancer Care Center removed a golf-ball sized tumor buried deep in Sherry’s chest wall. The surgical team also gathered tissues from the cancerous tumor to submit for genetic testing.
“Based on the results, Sherry’s cancer cells are not sensitive to chemotherapy,” said Shyamal Bastola, M.D., a Fellowship-trained and Board-certified Hematologist/Oncologist at the Genesis Cancer Care Center.
“The results also revealed that Sherry’s cancer has a phenomenal probability of being cured with hormone therapy.” With that evidence-based knowledge, Sherry began a daily hormone therapy regimen that will last a minimum of five years.
“In some ways, it would be more appropriate to call this hormone therapy, ‘anti-estrogen therapy,’” Dr. Bastola said. “Because estrogen receptor positive (ER positive) breast cancers feed on estrogen, we use the treatment to drastically decrease that female hormone within the body.”
An individualized approach
Feeling grateful for hormone therapy and the attentive, expert care she received, Sherry said she’ll never forget the people at the Genesis Cancer Care Center. “These people are like my family now,” Sherry said. “They treated me how I wanted to be treated.”
According to Dr. Bastola, Sherry’s phrase, “They treated me how I wanted to be treated,” holds the key to Genesis’ successful, compassionate cancer care. “We want to give each patient a personalized approach,” he said. “Everyone’s priorities and concerns are different. For example, some women feel scared about losing their breasts, and others don’t care or don’t want them anymore.”
Dr. Bastola continued, “We strive to meet our patients where they are and do our best to treat them as individuals. That’s the great advantage of care at Genesis. Our care is much more personal.”