Breast Cancer in San Angelo: What Happens After the Diagnoses?
SAN ANGELO, TX — Elma Jacques clearly remembers the day in 2003 that she heard the words, “you have breast cancer.” It all started innocently enough with a routine mammogram. And then a phone call followed, asking her to return for another scan, and then a biopsy, and then, finally, the diagnosis: Stage 2 breast cancer.
These life-changing words are the beginning of a journey for many women, and the question becomes, now what?
Elma’s physicians guided her from one specialist to the other; first, her gynecologist, then a surgeon, then the oncologist. But her constant was her faith and her husband of 48 years, “the love of my life,” Jerry, who left his business behind for two years to take care of her.
Above: Elma and Jerry Jacques. (LIVE! Photo/Gloria Johns)
Having known each other since they were youngsters, according to Jerry, “she was my girl when she didn’t even know it.”
Inside this marriage, and behind closed doors for others, the fight begins with a body that is physically assaulted by surgery, then chemotherapy, then radiation, with some large or small complication constantly showing itself along the way. Surgery involves healing wounded flesh. With chemotherapy comes nausea and often the inability to eat or swallow. And radiation leaves its mark, literally. It’s a bit of the ant under a magnifying glass effect.
Elma screamed the first time her hair came out in her hand. Jerry hugged her and then packed her off to the hairdresser, asked the hairdresser to shave the rest of Elma’s head, and then they went wig-hunting. Infections, weakness, bathing, dressing—Elma and Jerry did it together.
Cancer is a 24-hour disease. Elma couldn’t talk because of the swelling in her throat. She was weak, nauseated, hurting, and burned, when she motioned to Jerry to give her paper and pencil. “Shoot me,” she wrote.
He didn’t. Fourteen years later they laugh at what a horrible patient Elma was.
The Shannon Oncology Department and the myriad of support services offered to breast cancer patients, as well as patients with other cancers, means the support team stays local, as it did for Elma.
Formerly a part time position, Shannon Medical Center placed high priority on elevating the Patient Navigator position to a full time Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) position. For the past two years Kady Hill, LMSW, has provided a bridge between cancer patients and the services they need.
“The first step in caring for each patient is to complete a Needs Assessment, which allows us—the Shannon Oncology Center—to tailor a plan specific to that patient.”
“The Oncology Angels Fund provides some assistance, according to need, for paying bills such as utility bills, rent, or gas to get to and from treatment. There is an oncology dietician available for patients who are having trouble with regular food or drink, and nutritional supplements patients can sample.”
Other in-house services include pastoral care, a pain clinic, and pharmacy.
The treatment area for chemotherapy patients includes 13 chair stations, each equipped with a television. When physically able, patients can move their treatment to The Garden of Hope, a beautiful outdoor setting made possible by generous donations from the public.
The Grigsby Boutique provides wigs and other hairpieces inside the Live Well, Feel Beautiful area of the Center.
A support group meets every first Thursday, at the Center at 5:30pm.
“Every patient has access to all our services regardless of income, with or without insurance. And if we can’t take care of their needs, there are referrals we can make to other agencies.”
Breast cancer, after the diagnosis? What may be your first encounter with cancer will be supported by those who have the experience and compassion to take the patient to each next step.
For more information, visit the Shannon Medical Center Oncology Department online.