Support Makes the Difference in Felitia's Journey
"Cancer was not going to control me, weigh me down or get me. The journey I've had has been a positive experience."
Felita Smith of Bowie wasn’t concerned when the radiologist asked her to come back in after her annual mammogram.
“This was not unusual for me,” says the 50-year-old school counselor. “I have fibrocystic breast tissue, so I frequently get called back.”
But after Felita’s follow-up studies showed an area of concern, her doctor referred her to Eric A. Oristian, MD, medical director of the Breast Center at Holy Cross Hospital, for a biopsy.
“I was not alarmed because I previously had two other benign tumors in the same breast,” she said. “When Dr. Oristian said, ‘It’s cancer,’ it floored me.”
The diagnosis didn’t keep her down, however. It was important to Felita to stay active and be there for her family during treatment. The team at the Holy Cross Hospital Breast Center was ready to help her make that happen.
Cancer Care Experts
“We follow a multidisciplinary treatment approach,” Dr. Oristian says. “All together, we have a team of 20 specialists, including breast and reconstructive surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, nutritionists, physical therapists, nurse navigators and oncology social workers. As much as possible, we help our patients continue to do what’s important to them.”
One of the people who helped Felita after her diagnosis was Megeen White, RN, OCN, a member of the Holy Cross Hospital oncology nurse navigator team.
“My role is to accompany the patient from the point of diagnostic tests, through their treatment and into survivorship,” Megeen explains. “I educate patients about their disease, answer their questions about treatment options, and empower them to make informed decisions.”
Last January, Dr. Oristian performed a lumpectomy—a breast-sparing surgery to remove Felita’s tumor and some of the normal tissue surrounding it. Megeen stopped in to see Felita after her surgery and talked with her frequently during her recovery at home.
“Just speaking with her helped me a lot,” Felita says. “She shared stories and sent me cards. Having a personal support person like Megeen was wonderful.”
Felita had planned to take a cruise with her husband and two teenaged sons in February, and she didn’t want to miss it. Megeen helped Felita coordinate her treatment schedule around her travel plans and deal with the associated stress.
With support from her family and the Holy Cross Hospital Breast Center, Felitia says, "I never limited myself during my treatment. I did what I wanted to do, including attending my sons' basketball and footbal games."
The Latest Treatment Options
After her cruise, Felita met with Linda M. Burrell, MD, oncologist, Holy Cross Hospital, to discuss her treatment plan. Dr. Burrell recommended she have a genetic test that can help predict the potential benefit of chemotherapy treatment and the likelihood of cancer recurrence.
The test predicted that Felita would do better if she had both chemotherapy and hormonal therapy as she had a higher risk of recurrence. As a result, Dr. Burrell advised Felita to have chemotherapy and hormonal therapy in addition to radiation therapy.
“I was very worried about going through chemo,” Felita says. “I talked to Megeen about the side effects and what to expect. She helped me make my decision. I trusted her.” Felita was surprised how well she felt during her four rounds of chemo. With some time off, she was able to keep working through her treatment.
“Cancer was not going to control me, weigh me down or get me. The journey I’ve had has been a positive experience,” Felita says. “I kept thinking it would be the worst, but it wasn’t.”