In the summer of 2020, Murray County resident Sherri Walls went in for her annual mammogram appointment. Walls has always been proactive scheduling her women’s health exams, as her own mother had lost her battle with breast cancer in 2013.
After her routine appointment, the care team at the imaging center called Walls back in for an ultrasound. The ultrasound results led to a biopsy order to give a better idea about the area of concern. While she was at work as a consumer access specialist at AdventHealth Murray the following week, Walls picked up her phone and heard those words she had been dreading for days. “You have breast cancer.” As soon as she heard the news, Walls transferred her care to the AdventHealth Gordon Cancer Center for treatment and appreciated the kind and expert care provided to her by surgical oncologist Craig Box, MD.
The Power of a Nurse Navigator
The nurse navigators at the AdventHealth Gordon Cancer Center are integral to walking alongside patients to understand the process and details of their care plan. They provide emotional and social support, help with scheduling appointments and screenings, provide education about cancer and ensure patients have access to the resources they need throughout their journey.
Christine Bond, RN, is the breast nurse navigator who sits by patients’ sides as they go through treatments and meet with the oncology care team. She stayed with Walls, checking in with her to see how she was doing and helped explain the medical terminology in an easy-to-understand way.
“There is a huge amount stress associated with having to come in for an abnormal finding. Supporting the patient, by answering questions and explaining in detail what is going to take place next, helps to calm those fears of the unknown,” said Bond. “I know about these fears personally because I have been a patient myself, so it is important to take the time with the patient by sitting down and talking to them and answering all their questions.”
Together with the oncology team at AdventHealth Gordon, Walls learned that her type of cancer was caught early and therefore very treatable. Walls went in for surgery for a lumpectomy and began radiation treatments at the AdventHealth Harris Radiation Therapy Center with William Tong, MD, radiation oncologist and the medical director of AdventHealth Harris Radiation Therapy Center. To great relief, the oncology team found no cancer cells in Walls’ lymph system, and four weeks after the first radiation treatment, she rang the bell to celebrate the end of her cancer journey. Three years later, Walls is still cancer free and is grateful for a renewed gratitude for her life.
“I am so thankful to the Lord, for my family and coworkers who stood through this scary time of my life and to the wonderful team of doctors along this journey,” said Walls.
Whole-Person Cancer Approach
The team at the AdventHealth Gordon Cancer Center is fueled by compassion and a sense of responsibility to each one of their patients. They not only offer expert care to help patients beat cancer, but also provide them with the support they need to put up the fight of their lives. It’s all part of tending to patients’ physical, mental and spiritual health.
Patients in Northwest Georgia diagnosed with cancer can stay close to home and undergo treatment in the new facilities of the AdventHealth Gordon Cancer Center as it provides medical services, including chemotherapy, fluid replacement treatments, hematology, immunotherapy, infusion services, iron replacement therapy, medical oncology and target therapies.
After opening the AdventHealth Harris Radiation Therapy Center at the end of 2012, the comprehensive cancer program added the medical oncology program in 2015. The Edna Owens Breast Center opened in 2019, and construction finished to transform the first floor of the medical office building’s east wing into the cancer center at the end of 2020. Patients can access all their cancer services in one convenient location.
Cancer Experts with Heart
Board-certified in hematology and medical oncology, in addition to internal medicine, Mayur Mody, MD, delivers expert cancer care to patients in the AdventHealth Gordon Cancer Center. His compassionate approach to care leaves patients feeling seen and valued.
“I truly believe in a patient-centered approach to cancer care,” said Dr. Mody. “I strive to build relationships with patients that are strengthened with continuity of care. I want to help patients understand their diagnosis, balance treatment options with goals of care and ultimately coordinate care.”
Lifelong resident of Gordon County, Terrilyn Blackstock, ACNPC-AG, AOCNP, gives back to the community she loves by caring for its cancer patients. Blackstock uses her talents as an advanced practice registered nurse and her specialized skills in the aging process and cancer care to deliver extraordinary and personalized care to her patients. Alongside Blackstock on the care team is Shanna Guess, FNP-C, who is inspired by caring for patients during some of the most vulnerable periods of their lives.
Nurse navigators, a psychotherapist, the medical team and a dietitian who exclusively work with cancer patients at the AdventHealth Gordon Cancer Center work collaboratively with patients and their families to make a treatment plan, keeping the patient at the center.
Once a month, a team of tumor-fighting specialists gathers to review the case files of cancer patients being treated at the AdventHealth Gordon Cancer Center.
“The goal is to make sure we have as complete of a plan as possible in our approach to the patient and the individual at such a critical time in their life,” said Joe Joyave, MD, chief medical officer of AdventHealth Gordon and AdventHealth Murray. “It’s not all about the cure; it’s about care.”
Dr. Joyave is one of several physicians, nurses and allied health providers who participate in the monthly Tumor Board conferences to discuss the treatment plans for patients who are battling lung, breast, kidney, prostate and other types of tumor-based cancers.
“When we go through the cases, every member discusses patients as individuals who have individual needs,” said William Tong, MD, radiation oncologist and the medical director of the AdventHealth Harris Radiation Therapy Center. “It’s not uncommon that we are talking about a patient’s social situation, family support situations or even the logistical aspects related to transportation or costs of insurance with medications.”
The board reviews anywhere from six to ten patient files each month, with each participant contributing to the discussion as it relates to their specialty and experience.
World-Class Infusion Center
The cancer center, which opened for patient care in late 2021, boasts 17 infusion bays with views of an outdoor space and keeping with AdventHealth’s whole-person approach to cancer care, is surrounded by a bank of windows with a view of a landscaped garden to provide patients with the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of nature during treatments. Patients are offered warm blankets and have access to Wi-Fi, a book cart and televisions for a relaxing experience.
Support for the Patient and Family
The AdventHealth Gordon Cancer Care team understands that cancer is not the patient’s battle alone but affects the whole family. Patients, survivors, family and caregivers affected by any type of cancer can share their stories in a warm, supportive setting at the cancer and caregiver support group, which meets the first Thursday of each month at the AdventHealth Harris Radiation Therapy Center.
Breast cancer patients can receive support through the Beautiful You program, which is dedicated to supporting women as they go through cancer treatment by nurturing body, mind and spirit. Beautiful You provides patients with wigs, turbans and makeovers free of charge to help patients feel more like themselves.
AdventHealth invites friends, family and neighbors of breast cancer warriors to support and celebrate them this October by lighting your porch pink for the month of October. Last year was the first year AdventHealth shared the Pink Porch campaign and many people shared their own stories of triumph and support of loved ones facing breast cancer. Walls hopes the pink lights will remind women to take charge of their health and get their annual mammogram.
Pink light bulbs can be picked up at the main entrances of AdventHealth Murray, AdventHealth Gordon and AdventHealth Redmond while supplies last. For more information about lighting your porch pink or to schedule a mammogram, visit PinkPorchGA.com or call Call800-776-5102.
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