BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — This week, CBS 42 is highlighting Breast Cancer Awareness Month through the series, “Five ways to fight breast cancer.”
When a patient is first diagnosed, in can be really scary, but survivors say they quickly learn that the treatment plan is just as important as the support they receive.
In 2016, Kimberly Johnson was suppose to be in the midst of planning her wedding, but could tell something in her body didn’t feel right.
“You know your body. If there is something that is not right, don’t put it off,” Johnson said.
In November 2016, doctors confirmed it was stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer.
“He said ‘Kimberly, this is not a death sentence,” she said.
To make sure it wasn’t, Johnson did her research to find the best form of treatment and quickly learned it starts with a team of doctors.
At O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, Dr. Helen Krontiras is part of those breast cancer teams.
“When we have a team of doctors, that includes the medical oncologist, the radiation oncologist and surgeon. We can put that plan together that really is personalized for the patient,” said Krontiras, who serves as director for the division of breast and endocrine surgery.
Johnson said meeting her team at the UAB Kirklin Clinic put her mind at ease that she was going to beat this.
“To hear their unity and hear their agreement and hear they already had sat down together and discussed my case and had already come up with perfect plan for me, it took a lot of stress off my mind,” she said.
“I think that knowledge really helps them have some relief about their prognosis and about course that is ahead of them,” Krontiras said.
But a patient’s cancer team goes beyond the hospital. At the American Cancer Society, they also have a role.
“I seek to work with health systems that can facilitate our programs and services on a personal level while they’re being seen or while they’re having that appointment with their doctor. We seek to take care of the individual throughout the entire cancer continuum so whether that be diagnosis, whether that be treatment or whether that be survivorship,” said Anna Lisa Weigel, strategic partnerships manager at American Cancer Society.
Since Johnson and her family live in Cullman, the drive to and from treatment was wearing on her, so she stayed at the American Cancer Society’s hope lodge and was able to get rides to UAB. Support is everything.
“That can make or break a patient’s experience. Support on every level. They’re going to need support from their family, their loved ones, they’re going to need support from their doctors, teams, their care teams,” Weigel said.
Now, Johnson has been cancer-free for three years. Even though she doesn’t see her team regularly, she knows they’re still there cheering her on.
“They made me feel hopeful and made me laugh and they just gave me what i needed to get through, the strength to get through,” she said.
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