Tag Archives: chemotherapy

Tackling Breast Cancer and Rocking the Runway

Elizabeth Gainey lives in Lexington County with her husband. In the summer of 2017, she was 32 years old and just had a normal physical with her doctor. But a few weeks later, she noticed some unusual changes. At first, doctors thought it was an infection. But testing revealed breast cancer – and a positive result for the “BRCA1” gene – known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Elizabeth shared her story with WLTX this month.

Elizabeth’s did not experience a lump in her breast. Instead, she had redness, swelling and irritation. A biopsy revealed Stage 3 cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation at Lexington Medical Center. Today, she’s finished her cancer treatment and is doing well. Her story emphasizes the importance of knowing your body, recognizing changes and speaking with your doctor promptly when you notice something different.

Elizabeth was one of 10 breast cancer survivors who were models at Women’s Night Out on October 16 – Lexington Medical Center’s annual event that honors breast cancer survivors and their families. Here are some photos of Elizabeth rocking the runway. She makes us proud.

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Finding Friendship While Fighting Cancer

Daniel Stevanus faces adversity with a level head. So when doctors diagnosed him with testicular cancer in March 2016, one day before his 30th birthday, his first thought was, “OK. What’s next?”

“That’s how I tried to face each day during my treatment. What do I have to do today? What is next in my journey?”

Testicular cancer can affect men ages 18 to 30, and it is very curable.

Daniel’s treatment started quickly after his diagnosis. He had surgery to remove the tumor a week after having his first sonogram and started chemotherapy at Lexington Oncology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, four weeks later. It was during chemotherapy that Daniel found a friend in John Ezekiel, PharmD.

John is the infusion oncology pharmacist at Lexington Oncology. He is also a member of Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church in Lexington, where Daniel serves as a youth pastor.

“Mt. Horeb is such a large church, and my kids are not quite middle-school age, so I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet Daniel. When he arrived at Lexington Oncology, I introduced myself, and we had an instant connection. Today, we see each other at church and always share a fist bump or a hug,” said John.

Daniel had four rounds of chemotherapy in three months. Every time he was at the hospital for treatment, John made sure to check on him. They talked about their church, soccer games, medicine and cancer.

“John was incredibly helpful throughout my treatment. He would explain what the medicines were doing, how they were affecting my body and what I could expect. He told me how chemo was like a crew of bulldozers, moving and shifting things inside of me, and how my body would feel the effects from the previous week,” said Daniel. “Our conversations were the best part of my days. I like knowing how things work and understanding the ‘why’ behind decisions, and John provided those answers for me.”

As an infusion oncology pharmacist, John manages the compounding or personalization of chemotherapies. Although he primarily provides behind-the-scenes patient care, John enjoys interacting with patients.

“As more therapies become available orally, pharmacists are able to have more patient-counseling opportunities,” said John.

Lexington Oncology will open an on-site retail pharmacy in 2018 to dispense oral oncology medications and other medicines patients may need during treatment, giving John and other oncology pharmacists the opportunity to be more involved in direct patient care.

“The men and women at Lexington Medical Cancer Center are incredible folks – from the receptionists learning my name to the interactions with the nurses, my doctor and his assistants. In my experience, the road to recovery was long and not fun. Having people come alongside me made it just a little bit easier,” said Daniel.

He also found support from his community.

“I found so much strength and encouragement from my church. They checked on me weekly and prayed for me the whole time. They also gave me rides to the hospital. Most of the time, I had someone new driving me to my appointments. The nurses and receptionists would even tease me about having someone new with me at almost every visit,” said Daniel.

As a cancer survivor himself, John admires how Daniel put his faith into practice throughout his diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

“Receiving a cancer diagnosis is incredibly difficult to process when you are the one who has cancer. Daniel chose to fight with his faith and not bear the burden of a cancer diagnosis on his shoulders,” he said.

“I believe that God is the source of my strength, so I trusted in Him,” said Daniel. “When I didn’t feel as though I had enough trust in the moment, I would pray and ask Him to provide for me and help me through the situation. And He was with me every step of the way.”

Every patient chooses to fight cancer in his or her own way. John thinks of fighting cancer like running a marathon. Patients may start the race with a lot of support and motivation, but they may also feel alone at times.

“We all have what I call a ‘Mile 17’ in life, and we have to choose to keep running or quit. We have to remind ourselves that life is worth the fight, especially when you are near the finish line and hear the loud cheers of those in your corner. I like to think that the Lexington Medical Cancer Center team will always be the loudest cheering section.”

An Update on Daniel
In March 2017, almost a year to the date of his original diagnosis, doctors discovered an enlarged lymph node during a routine CT scan. A biopsy detected traces of different cancer cells. This summer, Daniel had retroperitoneal lymph node dissection surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. His most recent CT scan showed nothing abnormal in the affected area, but his doctors will be monitoring a lung nodule during the next few months. Read more about Daniel’s fight against cancer on his blog at DanielStevanus.com.

Exercise for Cancer Patients

“You can lift that much weight?”

That’s the question Debra Carter got at Health Directions, Lexington Medical Center’s fitness and wellness gym, recently.

Her 30-pound presses on a strength training machine would be impressive to anyone. But what was even more impressive – and that no one knew – was that Carter was a cancer patient, still undergoing treatment, too.

The Cayce woman, age 52, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2011. She underwent a lumpectomy and dozens of radiation treatments. During the end of radiation, she started going to Health Directions for Cancer Exercise Training, a program run with the help of the Lexington Medical Center Foundation.

Cancer Survivors 0144That’s where she met Thad Werts, who, with a Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET) certification from the American College of Sports Medicine, is an expert in helping people with cancer exercise correctly. A CET understands cancer patients’ diagnosis, surgeries, treatments, symptoms and side effects.

“With cancer, you can be active,” he said. “I look at what we can do to make everyone’s cancer experience better.”

In March, Werts put Carter on an 8-session, twice-per-week program to increase her strength and endurance, including a mix of cardio and weights.

With his training, he understands how cancer impacts exercise, and what it’s important for patients to do – and not to do. For example, chemotherapy can lower cardiovascular endurance. And, that it’s important to be careful with range of motion for breast cancer patients who’ve had surgery, especially with chest exercises.

“I can help them build back up their muscle so that they have more strength,” he said.

Carter liked it.

“It makes you feel so much better because you have more energy,” she said.

Since beginning the program two years ago, Werts has built up the program to train about ten patients each month, including breast, prostate and colon cancer patients.

The importance of such exercise is well-documented among cancer clinicians, who stress the importance of incorporating wellness activity into regimens for people who are moving into the survivor phase of life.

This exercise has emotional benefits, too.

“There’s a depression factor that I didn’t understand until I went through the training,” Werts said. “Women who have gone through hormone therapy have a tendency to gain more weight, so they feel more self-conscious.”

He says exercise can help them feel happier.

“I love the clinical aspect,” he said. “I knew I never wanted to be a doctor, but that I wanted to help as many people as possible.”

It’s made a difference for Carter. Werts has inspired her to exercise for the long-term.

“He has given me a second chance,” she said.

The Lexington Medical Center Foundation provides important programs and services that help people in our community, including cancer patients. Please consider giving to the Lexington Medical Center Foundation during the Central Carolina Community Foundation’s “Midlands Gives” challenge on May 5. Learn more at MidlandsGives.org.