Breast Health Team Works Together
"I've had top quality care. The team at the Center for Women's Health and the Infusion Center work really well together. The nurses help each other, and everyone is wonderful to me."-- Jean Ducham, Midland
There’s a mutual liking between Jean Ducham, 59, of Midland and the team that is caring for her as she receives treatment for breast cancer at the Infusion Center on the campus of MyMichigan Medical Center Midland. That’s due in part to the fact that in spite of losing a son, being diagnosed with breast cancer and knowing that her husband, Al, has multiple sclerosis, she brings hugs and smiles to everyone she meets, even when she’s having chemotherapy.
Jean received a double mastectomy in December 2013 and she’ll be having chemotherapy until January 2015. She has the whole process and all the details in a journal that she keeps. For women who have breast cancer, Jean recommends journaling. “There are a lot of things that you think you’ll never forget, but journaling keeps the facts straight,” she said. “When the doctors ask me a question, I have the answer in my journal.”
“I’ve been having yearly mammograms since my early 30s because breast cancer runs in my family,” Jean explained. After a regular mammogram in October 2013 she was diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of breast cancer. Breast Surgeon Kelly Wirsing, M.D., said that the cancer was Stage I and reassured Jean that it was treatable. “There is a 93 percent chance that I will have a complete cure,” Jean said.
She took the diagnosis with a grain of salt. “Being diagnosed with breast cancer was not a big deal after losing my son, Eddie, to cancer at age 23.” She wears a pendant with his photo on a necklace around her neck. “There’s no pain that can come close to that,” she said. “Breast Surgeon Dr. Kelly Wirsing, Oncologist Dr. Syed Hassan and Physician Assistant Abby Smith were all wonderful. When I would cry, they understood.”
“The doctors and nurses at the Center for Women’s Health talk to you in such a manner that it puts you at ease so that you’re not afraid you’re going to die of cancer. Plus, they keep things moving and share results with you each step of the way. They’re good at explaining things.”
Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator Jessica Fodrocy has also been there right from the beginning. “She calls to check on me. I know there’s not anything that I can’t ask her.”
Husband Al and Jean’s friends are also supportive. “Al was a big help to me. He actually changed dressings after my surgery. It made him feel like he was part of the process. He was always there for me.” And her friends are understanding of Jean’s limited energy.
“I feel pretty good now, although I am tired from the chemotherapy. I’m getting back to exercise. As a certified aerobics instructor I taught Zumba and kick boxing, I used to exercise four hours a day. Now I exercise lightly, walk my dog three times per day and work out with light weights. I also exercise at Cancer Services. Getting back to exercise really helps me.”
Jean urges women over 40 not to skip their mammograms and those with a family history of breast cancer to share that information with their doctors. “I always get my mammograms. If I had skipped this year, my cancer may have progressed from Stage I to Stage 4. Please don’t take that risk,” she said.
It is just like Jean to credit her breast cancer team with her success. “I’ve had top quality care. The team at the Center for Women’s Health and the Infusion Center work really well together. The nurses help each other, and everyone is wonderful to me.”
Jean Ducham's story is just one example of MyMichigan’s advanced technology and expertise for cancer treatment and rehabilitation. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with cancer, ask your doctor for a referral to a MyMichigan surgeon or oncologist, or call the MyMichigan Health Line for a physician referral at (800) 999-3199. Online, visit www.mymichigan.org/cancer or www.mymichigan.org/rehabilitation.