Cancer Care, You Can Take It With You

Cancer Care for This Snowbird Means Home and Away

Lois Colon Cancer Erik Johnson Green Bay

Lois Gracyalny hadn’t been in a hospital in 46 years. A big believer in preventive healthcare, she scheduled regular exams and started getting colonoscopies in her late 50s. But when a routinetest revealed low iron in her blood, doctors debated whether it was time for another colonoscopy to investigate. Lois admits she would have been happy to skip it, but ob/gyn Dr. Thomas Halloin insisted. 

Although the Gracyalnys spend winters in Florida, they typically fly home for the December holidays. So Lois agreed to the colonoscopy but scheduled it for two months out to fit their travel plans. She wasn’t particularly worried, so when the diagnosis came back as Stage 2C colon cancer, it came as quite a surprise.

From there, things moved pretty quickly. Two weeks later, Aurora BayCare surgeon Dr. Erik Johnson removed Lois’s tumor through laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive technique that requires only small incisions in the abdomen. Dr. Johnson removed 12 inches of Lois’s colon along with 35 nearby lymph nodes.

Lois stayed in the hospital for five days, but describes a relatively easy recovery with minimal pain. She and her husband even flew to Florida to recuperate in the warmth and sunshine for a few weeks before returning to Green Bay to start chemotherapy.

Coordinating Care, 1,400 Miles Away
Although Lois knew chemotherapy could be challenging, she still wanted to winter at their Florida home. Knowing that a comfortable environment can be a big part of the healing experience, her Green Bay cancer team was readily supportive. Lois’s Cancer Nurse Navigator got to work, coordinating chemotherapy care with a cancer center not far from their vacation spot.

“She took care of everything for me,” said Lois. “It was an easy transition.”

Through it all, Lois has maintained a positive, upbeat attitude, relying on faith, family and friendships for support. Today she values preventive healthcare more than ever and encourages everyone to begin getting colonoscopies as soon as doctors recommend.

“So many people think a colonoscopy is uncomfortable or painful, but they’re really a breeze. It’s nothing to fear.”

That kind of “no big deal” attitude served Lois well this season, helping ensure she can be around for many more Wisconsin holidays and Florida winters. And wherever she is, the cancer care team at Aurora BayCare is ready to support her, with hands-on care or coordination many states away.

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