Patient shares her faith-filled cancer journey
Updated: Aug 23
Lucy will be the first to tell you that her journey with cancer has not been easy and is ongoing but many blessings have been found along the way. While her journey was filled with difficulties and surprises, a sense of humor, a strong faith and trust in her exceptional care team helped bring great comfort along the way.
Lucy’s breast cancer ‘two-fer’ diagnosis — as she called it — came as a surprise. She was first diagnosed 11 years ago with a malignant phyllodes tumor on her right breast. This type of cancer spreads very differently than other types. Phyllodes tumors are rare breast tumors that start in the connective tissue of the breast, not the ducts or gland, which is where most breast cancers start. During the planning of her breast surgery, she had a screening colonoscopy which revealed Stage 3 rectal cancer.
“I was extremely blessed to have the providers that were available to me through Ascension,” Lucy shared. “Dr. Hanadi BuAli (pictured above), my breast surgeon, and Dr. Theresa Hayssen, my colorectal surgeon, are both excellent, compassionate surgeons. Dr. Jonathan Treisman, my oncologist, is regarded as one of the best in the country. Dr. Kwon, my radiation oncologist at that time, was also very good. They are among the best if not the best. I don’t say that lightly, when you've worked in healthcare, you know who really cares and puts forth the effort."
In all, Lucy underwent nearly two years of surgeries, radiation and chemo treatments, and various procedures for these two cancers. She received treatment at Ascension Elmbrook, St. Joseph, Franklin, Mayfair, St. Francis and the Reiman Cancer Center.
“My care team at Ascension was great. There were so many individuals — physicians, nurses, techs and other providers — that provided services with competency, care and compassion,” Lucy said. “I am so very fortunate to have these individuals involved with my care.”
Lucy did not have an extensive family history of cancer. There were only two occurrences nearly 50 years apart, until the two years prior to her diagnosis when several family members were diagnosed with different cancer types. While Lucy did not have any specific GI problems or symptoms, she had subtle differences and with her recent family history, was prompted to undergo a screening colonoscopy.
“Cancer can occur in anyone. Do recommended screenings and pay attention to your body. If something seems off, get it checked out,” Lucy said. “It's important to know your family history. If you have any indicators of family history or certain lifestyle risk factors, be more vigilant.”
A family history of cancer and previous cancer diagnoses are two risks of developing cancer. Now, Ascension Wisconsin is taking an extra look at high-risk patients through the Cancer Prevention and Wellness program, the first high-risk, preventive cancer program in the state.
“Throughout Lucy’s cancer journey, she remained vigilant about her screening mammograms, breast self exams and following up with recommendations from her providers,” Dr. BuAli said. “Throughout her journey with all three cancers, Lucy always had a positive attitude and never faltered or gave up. Her cancer journey is a testimony to successful treatment and to the importance of screening and early detection.”
Dr. BuAli said Lucy presented this year at an unscheduled visit due to concerns related to her reconstructed breast. An MRI was performed to look into this further, leading to the discovery of early stage breast cancer in the opposite breast. Because the cancer was caught at an extremely early stage, Lucy stands an excellent chance of a complete cure. In August, Lucy had surgery to remove the tumor and started treatment in September.
While the physical aspect of any disease may take the forefront of any disease, Lucy shares that keeping an open mind, a good sense of humor and faith in God can make all the difference.“ God has always been a great source of strength and comfort for me,” Lucy said. “God guided me through my challenges and intersected my path with angels — both human and spiritual. Among these angels were members of my care team.”
“I believe there is a purpose for everything. It may be a wake-up call to make a change in our lives, to take better care of ourselves or others, slow down or speed up, whatever purpose is needed. I trust God will continue to guide me, giving me the resources I need to get through — resources like the great care team I have at Ascension. Ascension is certainly my first choice to help me through this journey.”
Ascension’s Cancer Prevention and Wellness program is supported by Rise Against Cancer, a campaign with Ascension Foundations of Wisconsin.
You can help us as we continue to Rise Against Cancer by supporting this program. We invite you to click here to make an impact in your local community today.