This Nurse Chose Aurora BayCare for Cancer Care
When Barbara Heuer saw her mammogram, she knew pretty well what she was going to hear. A retired nurse, Heuer knew the black spidering in her right breast wasn’t caused by a mistake with the procedure. An ultrasound confirmed her suspicions: She had breast cancer.
“They wanted to schedule me for surgery right away, but I took a time out and said, ‘This is a complete shock to me. You have to let me absorb this,’” Barbara remembers. She wanted time to research and choose her treatment team.
Thanks to a chance encounter with an old nursing friend (Nancy Carl, an oncology nurse practitioner at Aurora BayCare), Barbara had heard good things about the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic at Aurora BayCare. She talked with family and then got online to do more reading.
“I saw that Aurora BayCare had a separate breast clinic, and I was impressed with that,” Barbara says. “I called and got an appointment right away.”
After meeting with her cancer team, Barbara opted for a partial mastectomy. During surgery, Dr. Owens did a breast reduction on both breasts, to create a new, symmetrical appearance.
“I never had to look in the mirror and see one breast looking different than the other,” Barbara says. “I’m just really pleased. I feel so much lighter.”
A Temporary Hairdo Stays
As soon as she was diagnosed, Barbara started growing her hair out and had blue streaks put in—something just a little wild before she lost her hair. But the chemo treatments never happened.
Doctors discovered that Barbara’s cancer was estrogen-receptor positive, meaning the cancer cells grow in response to estrogen. They sent her tissue off for Oncotype DX testing to measure her specific breast cancer genes and get the best treatment information possible.
“Five years ago, they would have scheduled me for chemo and radiation, but now they have the Oncotype DX tests,” Barbara says. “The results showed that chemo would only increase my chance of living by one percent, so we didn’t have to do that. I kept my hair.”
When a Nurse Asks Questions
Thanks to Barbara’s medical background, she already knew a lot about how to read medical guidelines and what kind of treatment to expect. She gives a lot of credit to the Aurora BayCare team for feeding her need for information.
“The gal in nuclear medicine was great. She showed me where the cancer lit up in the lymph nodes,” Barbara says. “So as soon as I got out of surgery, I was asking really particular questions about how many lymph nodes they took.”
“I ended up with getting 33 radiation treatments over 6.5 weeks. Dr. Rohde and his team gave me excellent care on a daily basis. Because my cancer was fed by estrogen I was put on a hormone blocker which I will take at least for ten years. Dr. Patel, a very learned medical oncologist will remain my doctor ‘forever,’ monitoring me.”
Attack on all Fronts
Barbara has high praise for her cancer team. But her care didn’t stop there. She signed up for Aurora BayCare’s cancer rehabilitation program and met with a personal trainer twice a week. She also attended two different support groups, met with a genetic counselor to evaluate her family risk for cancer, and connected with an integrative medicine specialist, Dr. Lynn Wagner, for holistic care.
“Knowledge is power. The thing is to really understand what your options are,” Barbara says. “I got that at Aurora BayCare.”
Friends and physicians alike commented on Barbara’s positive attitude during treatment.“I had three choices: I could curl up and die, I could become really dramatic and be an emotional wreck, or I could set a really good example for my family and my grandkids. I wanted to set a good example,” Barbara says. “That and the excellent care I received made all the difference.”