3500 S Lafountain Street
Kokomo, IN 46902
Community Howard Regional Health patient Cheryl has fought breast cancer twice.
Her first diagnosis came in 2006. After a complete hysterectomy, her OBGYN tried to aspirate a cyst in her breast, but he realized she needed to get to the breast center.
Cheryl remembers that visit like it was yesterday. It was May 17 and a beautiful, sunny day. Her parents went with her to the doctor to learn the results of her test. She was nervous. When they learned the diagnosis, her heart ached knowing her parents were learning their only daughter had breast cancer, and she knew she’d need to share the news with her two grown children and her husband.
In June of that year, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy and radiation to target the two types of cancer in her breast, which had spread to a few surrounding lymph nodes, making her breast cancer Stage IIIA. Her oncologist also recommended an intensive chemotherapy treatment every three weeks for six cycles as well as radiation which brought on a number of side effects, including hair loss.
“I remember standing in front of the mirror, screaming and crying at the girl looking back at me – not a hair on my body and the scars…” she says of this uncertain and scary experience, and she remembers her oncologist explaining the extremely powerful dose of chemotherapy was necessary to keep her alive.
The situation was compounded by the fact that three weeks later her husband filed for divorce. Cheryl was unsure how much more she could take.
“I remember thinking that now I had two battles to endure,” she says. “I changed my last name and was ready for the fight.”
Fortunately, several family members lived nearby and stepped in to help, and Cheryl moved in with her mother for emotional support and help during her treatments and surgeries.
“Finally, our prayers were answered, and I was deemed cancer-free,” she says. “I got to ring the victory bell.”
Nine and a half years passed. One day in October of 2015, Cheryl noticed a cyst-like lesion near one of her surgery scars. She visited her current oncologist, Annette Moore, MD, an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician specializing in medical oncology. Tests conducted in November of that year confirmed it was cancer that had again spread to lymph nodes. This time, it was considered Stage IV and HER2 positive, when her initial diagnosis was triple-negative.
Dr. Moore recommended three chemotherapy drugs every three weeks for six cycles in addition to radiation. In May of 2016, Robert Goulet, MD, an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician specializing in breast surgery, extracted more tissue and lymph nodes where her cancer had spread.
Throughout it all, Cheryl was blown away by the level of care she received from Community Howard’s oncology and radiology care teams.
“Everyone I asked where to go for cancer treatments said Community Howard – I’m so thankful I did,” she said. “From the receptionists and billing office to the people in the back administering tests, I feel so close to all of them. We all became friends and everyone knows me by name.”
“Dr. Moore was another God send,” she added. “She supported me through the good and the bad times. She and my nurse navigator Diana feel like my best friends.”
During the course of treatment, she remembers telling Dr. Moore and Diana about the financial stress she was facing. Six months prior to her diagnosis, she had started a new job but was unable to work due to surgery, treatments and was at the time applying for disability. Her care team was able to help thanks to the Oncology Patient Assistance Fund, which is supported by donors to Community Health Network Foundation and offers cancer patients in need a $250 gift card that can be used for food, medicine or gas. Cheryl used the gift card to purchase groceries that would help her body fight back.
Again in January of 2018, Cheryl received assistance from the Oncology Patient Assistance Fund after a major car repair had depleted her funds.
“I was elated!” she says of her reaction. “I didn’t have to worry how I was going to get through another rough patch in the road. I was so grateful that care came my way – it made me feel important and worthy and special.”
And, to the donors who make the Oncology Patient Assistance Fund possible, Cheryl offers her appreciation and gratitude, “You help relieve stress from the chaos we’re going through in our lives.”
Today, Cheryl is finished with radiation and is cancer-free. She continues to receive maintenance chemotherapy every three weeks and will for the rest of her life.
Cheryl has a strong faith and says, “To God I give the glory. Without God, we have nothing. Countless times I went to my knees in prayer. I received prayers from around the world, from my family and friends and my church family at the Kokomo First Church of the Nazarene.”
During her battles with cancer, Cheryl claimed the verse Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
“I believe in the power of prayer,” she says. “I believe the Lord is not finished with me yet and that’s why I’m here.”
And she also credits her Community Howard care teams for offering her expert care in a compassionate and dignified way.
“I’ve always been a hugger, so I hug all my doctors and caregivers. I feel like we’re all family.”