Brenda Marlow, 61, of Rockford came to OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center for a breast reduction surgery due to on-going spine issues and pain. Little did she know that the surgery would lead to a cancer diagnosis.
“During my surgery, the doctor found cancer in both of my breasts,” said Brenda. “I was referred to the Patricia D. Pepe Center for Cancer Care and met with Dr. Iftekhar Ahmad. It is such a scary thing to hear that you have cancer.”
Dr. Ahmad, medical director of oncology services at OSF Saint Anthony, said Brenda’s diagnosis was a surprise since the cancer was not palpable or found on a screening mammogram.
“We first did a lymph node evaluation and found that her lymph nodes were negative on both sides, which was good news,” said Dr. Ahmad.
Brenda then went through six weeks of radiation treatments under Dr. Ahmad’s care. Once that was complete, she started hormonal therapy under the care of medical oncologist Dr. Mete Korkmaz.
“I was so scared at first and I cried a lot,” said Brenda. “The first person I met was Lisa Bruno, who is a nurse navigator. She had everything planned out and made me feel at ease. Everyone at the cancer center is a dream team. They are so compassionate and really care about you. Even the greeter at the door, Andrew, he knows you by name and is so kind.”
Brenda had some unrelated health issues arise during her cancer treatment. Once Dr. Korkmaz found out she was in the hospital, he visited her every day to make sure she was doing well.
“This kind of care is above and beyond,” said Brenda. “Dr. Korkmaz is so caring and gives you hope. You can see his passion for his work in these kinds of actions. He visited daily and wasn’t afraid to give me a hug. I am so beyond grateful for my care at OSF Saint Anthony.”
While Brenda’s case of breast cancer was a little unusual it is not unheard of.
“Her case was not a typical presentation breast cancer but one that we have seen,” said Dr. Ahmad. “Her case was discussed in our multidisciplinary breast tumor conference where surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists and pathologists all come together to go over all the findings of a diagnosis. I am proud to say that here at OSF Saint Anthony all of our breast cancer cases are discussed in this manner to decide the optimal treatment.”
The biggest thing both Dr. Ahmad and Brenda recommend is to get your cancer screenings.
“The most important thing to realize about breast cancer is the earlier it is found the better the prognosis is,” said Dr. Ahmad. “That is why it is paramount that women obtain a yearly screening mammogram as many breast cancers are not felt at the time of diagnosis. It is also important to do monthly breast examinations as sometimes cancers can develop between the time of two mammograms.”
“I am a cancer survivor,” said Brenda. “I am a survivor because of my faith in God, love and support from my husband, family and friends. I had compassionate caregivers. My mentor would send me jokes and tell me to watch funny movies to get through the hard days. I am blessed every day because of the amazing people God has put in my life. Get your cancer screenings, and if you do get a cancer diagnosis, you will be in great hands at the OSF Patricia D. Pepe Center for Cancer Care.”