When Mary Molina donated $20 to breast cancer research last year, she had no idea she would soon undergo breast cancer treatment herself.
Every February, Mary, a grandmother of three in Kenosha, Wisc., had a mammogram at United Hospital System. This year, she was called back. Mary braced herself for bad news: a needle biopsy confirmed the presence of a tumor in her left breast.
Mary went to see Majed Jandali, MD, a general surgeon affiliated with United Hospital System's State Senator Joseph F. Andrea Regional Cancer Center located at the St. Catherine's Medical Center Campus. Her first appointment assured her she had made the right choice: "Dr. Jandali explained everything and even made drawings so I understood my options."
Mary decided on a lumpectomy, surgery to remove just the tumor within the breast tissue, rather than removing additional surrounding tissue. She scheduled surgery for later that same week. "Everything happened quickly," she says.
After performing the surgery and assisting recovery, Dr. Jandali referred Mary to Dian Wang, MD, a Medical College of Wisconsin radiation oncologist who also practices at the State Senator Joseph F. Andrea Regional Cancer Center. Mary began radiation therapy in early May.
United Hospital System's State Senator Joseph F. Andrea Regional Cancer Center at the St. Catherine's Medical Center Campus offers women access to all available cancer treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy and — through an affiliation with the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center — radiation therapy. J. Frank Wilson, MD and Dian Wang, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin radiation oncologists, provide medical direction and oversight of radiation treatment at the Regional Cancer Center. Raymond Knight, MD, a medical oncologist and hematologist, provides medical direction and oversight of the medical oncology program at that location.
Mary received radiation five days a week for seven weeks. Dr. Wang monitored progress, making sure treatment had the desired effect.
"I couldn't have asked for better care," she says. "I had little pain, which surprised me. It wasn't until afterward I thought, 'What did I just go through?'"
At the end of June, treatment complete, Mary returned to work part-time and was back fulltime in August. "I thanked my doctors," she says. "They said, 'You're not through with us yet.' I'll see them for follow-up visits for the next five years." According to both physicians, radiotherapy after surgery significantly reduced the risk of recurrence for Mary.
Mary continues to support breast cancer research. She wants to help her daughters and granddaughters. "If a million people send $20, we can make a difference," she says. "If it helps the next generation, it's worth it."
In September, Mary had her first mammogram since surgery and remains cancer-free. "When things like this happen, there are reasons and you deal with them," she reflects. "As my husband drove me to the hospital for surgery, he asked if I was afraid and I said, 'No.' I had a positive attitude and trusted the people who were caring for me. That made all the difference."