Breast Cancer Patient Story: Mary Jo Tye

Breast Cancer Survivor Mary Jo TyeIt was one of those random things. Mary Jo Tye was flipping channels and saw an actress in tears as she waited for her breast biopsy results. Mary Jo decided it was time for a self exam. That's when she found it — something odd.

She was a healthy 44-year-old who got regular mammograms, but wanted to make sure all was well before going on vacation. She asked her physician to check it out and he recommended an immediate mammogram and ultrasound. The results were Bi RADs Level 5, which is highly suggestive of malignancy.

Now Mary Jo had a decision to make. She needed to choose the team to help her fight the battle against breast cancer. After getting a first opinion elsewhere, she met with the staff from Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin's Breast Cancer Program. "From the first moment, I knew it was a good decision," recounts Mary Jo.

The team recommended a lumpectomy. If the margins were not clear, a second surgery would be scheduled. Mary Jo questioned why the decision to do a mastectomy couldn't be made immediately, while she was still under anesthetic. The surgeon told her he didn't want her to wake up without a breast; that it is something you need to prepare for mentally.

As she was grappling with the decision to do a lumpectomy or mastectomy, she sought the advice of Julia White, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin radiation oncologist. Dr. White told her, "Mary Jo: we wouldn't give you two options if we didn't feel both would give you the same results." Consequently, Mary Jo relates, "I trusted her. I was confident in her. I made the decision, but she reassured me."

Fortunately, the margins were clear after the lumpectomy was performed and no further surgery was needed.

Concern for her mental as well as physical well-being characterized Mary Jo's care, as well as the latest medical technology. The tumor was evaluated using Oncotype DX® testing, which helps doctors select treatment and predict cancer recurrence. Tumors are rated on a scale of 1-100, indicating the percent chance of recurrence. Tumors above 19 are generally treated with chemotherapy. Mary Jo's was rated 19.5-20.

Mary Jo chose chemotherapy. "I cried. I didn't want to lose my hair." Now her support network — both in the hospital and at home — rose to the task.

Oncology Certified Nurse Jill Royten, BSN, RN, met Mary Jo as she was about to start chemotherapy. "It's always a difficult time for a patient," Jill explains, "particularly for women, who are pivotal to the everyday function of the family."Part of Jill's role was to make the treatments work with the rest of Mary Jo's life. As a single mother and principal of an elementary school, Mary Jo's work was essential to her family. Appointments were scheduled so that the toughest recovery days fell on the weekends and she could return to school as soon as possible.

Mary Jo's mother came to live with her and her son for four months to manage home life. "I worked but I had no responsibilities at home," recalls Mary Jo. "My mother arrived just when my hair started falling out and left when it was growing back."

Mary Jo also had tests to determine whether the cancer had a genetic link, which would have implications for her son, sister and mother, as well as her own risk for ovarian cancer. Thankfully, all these tests turned out negative.

Next came seven weeks of radiation treatments, five days per week. Toward the end of the treatments, the technicians told Mary Jo's doctor they noticed a change in her mood. As she neared the end of the battle, she was feeling dispirited and anxious. "They picked up on that and told the doctor. The personal touch — from every single person — was amazing to me."

Now cancer free for 3-1/2 years, Mary Jo has nothing but praise for the breast cancer care team at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. She appreciates the collaborative approach to individual care and urges everyone to get a second opinion. "There is little you have control over, but you do have control over the team you choose."

Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center

The Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center offers comprehensive care in one location. Each specialized cancer program includes a complete team of physician experts who focus on a particular form of cancer or group of related cancers. For patients, the benefits are completely coordinated treatment and the most advanced care available. Learn more about our disease-specific cancer programs or to make an appointment, call 866-680-0505.


For breast cancer treatment:

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Clinical Cancer Center, Froedtert Hospital 9200 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53226

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