Early Detection, Compassionate MVH Staff Help Cancer Patient Recover

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Connie Nisonger didn’t think anything was really wrong when she received a call from diagnostic radiologist Bruce Gearhart, MD, about her annual mammogram results because she’d had a false alarm before.  “I wasn’t really concerned because about four or five years ago, I had something show up on a mammogram.  They called me back for a second mammogram and an ultrasound and it was fine -- nothing showed up on the second one,” she said.

This time, however, Connie was diagnosed with breast cancer which was successfully treated at Miami Valley Hospital.  Initially, Dr. Gearhart found a small abnormality on one of Connie’s mammogram images, and he felt strongly that she should come back for additional testing.  “As usual,” he said, “we compared it with multiple different previous studies.  It looked like it was new or needed to be evaluated further, so I flagged it for additional evaluation.”  Connie’s mammogram was then read by diagnostic radiologist Naomi Kane, MD, who met with Connie to talk to her about what should happen next.  “I told her I was quite concerned about the lesion and that there was only one way to tell what was causing it, which was to have a biopsy,” Dr. Kane said.

The idea of a biopsy was unsetting for Connie and her husband, Gene, who was with her through every moment.  The compassion demonstrated by the physicians, nurses and staff made them feel more at ease. “Now, whether or not this is something they learn in their training or this is something that Premier Health promotes I don’t know, but I do know how important it is to the patient,” she said.  

Finding the Best Treatment Path

Once the cancer diagnosis was made, Connie and Gene had to decide on the best treatment path for her.  “It was difficult because it felt like we’d been punched in the face,” Gene said.  “We were go on, but still trying to figure out and talk to each other about how we are going to handle this.”  Working closely with her physicians, Connie decided to have a lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy.  

Since her cancer was detected at such an early stage (it was only 4.5 millimeters), she had a number of radiation options, which were explained to her by Rebecca Paessun, MD, her radiation oncologist. After her lumpectomy, she opted for brachytherapy, a radiation therapy in which a small balloon catheter is placed into the cavity where the tumor was removed.  The treatment lasts only five days.  “The beauty of the brachytherapy is not only is it over with quickly, but as you receive these radiation treatments they don’t hit your skin, bones, or organs -- it is just a direct path to where those cancer cells were,” Connie said.  Her journey from surgery to completed radiation was 12 days.   

Don’t skip things that your doctors tell you to do

Connie credits her positive outcome to her commitment to annual mammograms and the compassionate, quality medical care she received.  “Only 12 days because of early detection and not skipping that mammogram, not delaying it, and having a very qualified and professional doctor at Miami Valley Hospital read those mammograms, she said.  

Her husband is grateful, too, because his wife is well and still sitting by his side.  When he talks about her journey, he tears up, clearly demonstrating his love and respect for her.  “She’s the love of my life,” he said, offering advice to others who find themselves facing a cancer diagnosis.  “Don’t skip things that your doctors tell you to do.  Have your mammograms, make sure you have your check-ups and stay on top of things. If you don’t, it can sneak up on you.  We were lucky.  And tell them you love them every day.”

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