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Angie

The level of care was unbelievable.

With you
from day one

Taking that first step

From the moment you meet Angie, you quickly realize one thing – she’s a powerhouse of energy with a quick and quirky sense of humor that makes you laugh out loud. You can feel her joy and zest for life the moment you hear her speak. Even when she’s telling the story of her cancer journey.

After losing her job in Fort Wayne, Angie needed a change of scenery and a chance to regroup. She decided to move in with her parents in South Bend for a while. She was there about a year when she found the lump. It was Valentine’s Day 2013. She called a cancer hotline for advice and they told her, “If it hurts and it moves, it’s not cancer.”

But in May, just two days after she lost her dog to cancer, her entire right side went numb. Angie knew it was time to take that first step. Within hours of her ultrasound at Memorial Hospital, she received a call from diagnostic radiologist Dr. Alan Engel at the Breast Care Center. He wanted to see her immediately.

“As soon as he told me he wanted to do a biopsy, I was a complete flight risk,” Angie laughs. “I freaked out, lost my mind.” Her grandmother had breast cancer twice, which she admits should have been a good enough reason for her to get the biopsy. But, again, fear had her procrastinating. In August, Angie received a call from Dr. Engel’s nurse, Kelly, who told her, “You need to get your butt back in here.”

“I couldn’t put it off any longer,” she says. “But from day one, Dr. Engel and I had a great relationship. As soon as he took the biopsy, I saw the look on his face and told him: do not call me with the results! I don’t want to be in Walmart and find out I have cancer.”

Knowing how scared she was – and her tendency to procrastinate, Dr. Engel and Kelly set her up for two appointments three days later. One to get the results. The other was with oncologist Dr. Tom Reid. Angie had breast cancer.

Amy was literally like an angel to me in that moment. – Angie

An angel. And a crash course in cancer.

Within thirty minutes of getting her diagnosis, anxious and shaken, Angie arrived at Dr. Reid’s office. “Of course, I’m bawling my eyes out,” she says. “But everyone there is so nice, so sympathetic. And then, out comes my angel…” She’s referring to nurse navigator, Amy Tinlin, RN, OCN.

“As soon as she saw me, she hugged me and gave me a little silver angel. I remember her calming me down and telling me, ‘Yes cancer is scary, but listen… if I had to have cancer, I would want your kind of cancer.’” In that moment, Amy knew just what to say to Angie to change her perspective. “She was literally like an angel to me in that moment. Really, throughout the whole process.”

And then she met Dr. Tom Reid. She took one look at his bowtie and thought, “Oh no! He’s going to be stuffy. He won’t get me.” But she quickly realized that Dr. Reid, who she now affectionately refers to as “The Big R,” had a sense of humor equal to her own.

With her mother and sister at her side, Angie got a crash course in cancer, particularly her HER2 diagnosis, which is an aggressive form of the disease. From that point on, Angie didn’t have time to procrastinate. Dr. Reid kept her very busy with all the necessary tests leading up to her surgery, which would be performed by Dr. Mark Thompson.

Based on her diagnosis and severity, Angie had two options she could choose from, a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. “With a lumpectomy, I knew I would be freaking out every day, worrying about the cancer coming back in my healthy breast,” she explains. “I didn’t want to live like that, so I went with the mastectomy to reduce the chance of it returning.” And then Angie said something so true to her character. “When we were talking about my options, I told them if I’m going to get new breasts, I want big ones. If I’m going to go through this, I’m getting a gift of some sort!”

Of course, Angie’s treatment was no easy ride, but her ability to maintain her sense of humor is a true testament to her spirit and determination in the face of adversity. “I can’t even count the times I called or texted Amy in the middle of the night. She was always there for me,” describes Angie. Amy even referred to herself as Angie’s “second mom.”

The level of care was unbelievable. If Dr. Reid moved to Mars, I would follow him. - Angie

 

Journey to the bottom of the Hudson

In spite of all she’s been through. The fears. The complications of treatment. The concerns about her future. Angie wants people to know, “My journey wasn’t sad or serious.” Then she adds something that most people might never think possible, “It was fun. I wasn’t going to just sit there. I made it fun.” In fact, halfway through her chemo treatments, the team had a cake for her that said, “Halfway from driving Dr. Reid crazy.”

And the truth is Angie loved her entire Beacon team. “The level of care was unbelievable,” she says. From the greeter at the door who prayed the rosary over her as she slept in the hospital, to Amy who was there for her day and night – Angie couldn’t be more grateful. “I don’t know how I would have been able to get through this without them. I moved back to Fort Wayne and I still go to see Dr. Reid for my follow up care. If he moved to Mars, I would follow him.”

Today, Angie still has yearly checkups, but she’s cancer-free. She loves to hike, cycle and travel. She’s even part of a breast cancer support group called the Positive Pink Sisters. A few years ago, they all met up in New York City and threw some symbols of their cancer journeys into the Hudson River. “The Beacon team let me keep my port,” Angie says. “It’s now at the bottom of the Hudson, exactly where it should be.”

 

 

From the greeter at the door who prayed the rosary over her as she slept in the hospital, to Amy who was there for her day and night - Angie couldn't be more grateful

Your Cancer Care Team

Beacon Cancer Care is home to a team of highly skilled oncologists specializing in cancer and blood disorders. Taking a comprehensive approach to cancer treatment, our physician team, with their nurse practitioners or physician assistants, will work side-by-side with a dedicated staff of nurses, therapists, navigators, social workers, clinical pharmacists, dietitians and genetics counselors to deliver the highest quality of care, using cutting-edge technology and procedures to diagnose and treat cancer based on individual needs..

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Mammography is the best test to detect early breast cancer and is the only test proven to reduce the death rate of breast cancer. When detected early, the “cure rate” of breast cancer is greater than 90 percent. Digital mammography, including 3D mammography, is the gold standard in the detection of breast cancer.

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Beacon Health Foundation’s focus is a direct outgrowth of Beacon Health System’s deep commitment to enhancing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of the communities we serve. Our tax exempt identification number is 35-1536129.

*The quotations provided in this article are part of a testimonial from Angie Witherby; a patient at Beacon Cancer Care.