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Editor's note: This story was submitted by Sheila Robb, a Mayo Clinic patient from Minneapolis.
I was at Mayo a couple of months ago to start planning for a new treatment. The breast cancer that had metastasized 2 ½ years ago in my lymph system responded well to the Xeloda I had been on but all of a sudden a spot appeared in a muscle in my back. I still don’t understand how cancer that starts in the breast, and is specifically identified as breast cancer, can end up in other parts of my body but it does.
The nurse I was talking with looked at my “clinic number” and commented she was surprised I had such a low number. The numbers assigned have increased as more people have sought the healing expertise of Mayo. I grew up in Austin, Minnesota, 40 miles from Rochester. I started going to Mayo and got my clinic number when I was a young girl. My entire family has gone there for care and I grew up knowing that if I went to Mayo, I would get well.
I faithfully had mammograms every year because my mother had breast cancer and that put me in the high risk category. She was diagnosed and treated at Mayo in 1963 and thankfully survived for 45 more years.
Ten years ago when it was confirmed that I indeed did have a stage 3 lobular cancer, I relied on the expertise of the people at Mayo to help me survive as long as possible. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and then 5 years of Tamoxifen resulted in 7 1/2 years without a recurrence. Then at one of my regular checkups there was something different. My wonderful oncologist who had been with me from the beginning, Dr. Tim Hobday, gave us the news. It was back. Both my husband and I were surprised and frightened but Dr. Hobday reassured us that he had access to a whole range of options that could keep pushing back what now was a “chronic” condition.
And so we began chemo again. This time I took pills and didn’t lose my hair. Thanks to the research that continues to be done, chemotherapy frequently isn’t as horrible as it was at one time. I have always believed my job is to hang on long enough for the next great treatment to become available. That was my goal again. My faith that Mayo is where I would get well surfaced once more.
2 ½ more years passed and a checkup revealed a spot of cancer in my muscle. This time Dr. Hobday suggested I meet with Dr. Macdonald to explore a relatively new treatment, stereotactic full body radiation. I’ve completed the 5 treatments. There was no pain. I just laid there, “shrink wrapped” so I couldn’t move, while the machines performed the intricate maneuvers Dr. Macdonald had carefully planned. My husband Ted describes the procedure as radiation that destroys the peach pit without harming the peach – and I, of course, claim to be the peach.
I go back today to find out how well the procedure worked. Dr Macdonald is very optimistic and I feel great so we’re not spending any effort worrying. We believe it worked and now my job is to just keep going. New amazing treatments are continually being discovered and my doctors at Mayo will guide me to the latest and the best options when ,and if, my cancer shows up somewhere else. To me, it’s all a miracle – and one that’s available to me because Mayo is where I go to get well.