One breast cancer patient’s difficult promise to her kids
Last August, Sharry Herritt Spencley noticed a swelling on her right breast when she was taking a shower. As a financial counselor at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., she did not waste time calling her primary physician the next day and scheduling an appointment. No lump was found, but they decided to schedule a 3D mammogram just to rule out any possibilities.
Unfortunately, tiny specks of cancer were spotted, which had not shown up on the ultrasound. While she had her biopsy, Michelle Bazaan, her patient navigator, held her hand, rubbed her arms and wiped her tears. Sharry got her results back with the pathology report, diagnosing her with an aggressive cancer in her right breast.
Sharry told her two children, 23 and 18, about her diagnosis and had not been planning on getting chemotherapy due to the side effects. But her kids were the driving force behind her getting chemotherapy. Her son cornered her and said, “Please Mom, promise me you will do it.” He knew that his mom usually makes the point of not promising anything to let her kids down while they were growing up. But she promised him she would do it, and Sharry is glad that he made her promise.
Sharry went through chemotherapy at Advocate Sherman Hospital’s Cancer Care Center.
“Those were dark days for me, but my teammates and nurses in the Cancer Care Center were there for me,” comments Sharry. “Margie at the front desk would give her a hug or thumbs up when I would walk by. My children would feed, wash and care for me.”
Sharry finished chemotherapy on February 19, which is also her birthday. Her MRI/PET scan showed that she is cancer-free. On March 9, she had a double mastectomy and reconstruction with two of Sherman’s team: Dr. Rachel Baer, breast surgeon, and Dr. Stefan Szczerba, plastic surgeon.
“Dr Szczerba and I were pleased to provide Sharry with a new surgical option of immediate implant reconstruction at the time of her mastectomies,” shares Dr. Baer. “This technique allows the patient to wake up with far less pain than other techniques and no need for further surgery. Sharry worked very hard through the challenges of chemotherapy. We admire her so much and are so pleased to be on her team!”
Sharry hopes to return to work this summer. When asked how this experience will change her outlook with her job at Sherman, Sharry shared the following: “Now I understand how people feel when they feel low and are getting their cancer medical bills. I can now give them my experience and share that it looks worse than it is. We are lucky to have an oncology financial navigator who can help locate funds to pay for provider support and meds/treatments can get covered or matched. I will encourage them to not get overwhelmed and that we are here to help!”
About the Author
Jennifer Benson, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs for Advocate Aurora Health. She has 10+ years of community development and communication experience for non-profits and has a BA in Architecture from Judson University in Elgin, IL. Outside of work, you can find her planning the next adventure near water or rocks, re-organizing spaces, working on her Master’s in Public Health, caring for her senior citizen cat, keeping to healthy moving and eating disciplines and growing green things wherever she can find room.