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Kathy C.

Retired
Royal Palm Beach, FL
Treated with SAVI – September 2012

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I retired in May 2011, my 92-year old mother died of dementia two weeks later, we sold the family home in January 2012, bought our house in Florida in April, and were about to move to Royal Palm Beach, when the results of my annual mammogram “showed something”. I was told I needed a biopsy the day we were leaving for Florida.

One of my dearest friends lives in the community into which we were moving, and is an 11-year breast cancer survivor. When we arrived at our new house, she was waiting with a list of doctors and support groups.

Blessedly, Dr. Donna Kleban was recommended to me. She guided my husband and me through the biopsy, diagnosis and treatment options, patiently explaining my type of cancer and supporting the hope for recovery. This brilliant and compassionate woman lead me out of an abyss of fear I never knew existed.

My cancer was Stage 1, and the lumpectomy showed clear nodes and margins. Because of Dr. Kleban’s skill, my recovery from surgery was flawless and painless. The bra that the surgical team put on me at the end of my surgery is now my “lucky bra” that I wear to all follow-up appointments!

Post-surgery testing showed I would not need chemotherapy. Dr. Kleban recommended my radiation oncologist, Dr. Anthony Addesa of South Florida Radiation Oncology, who explained my radiation options—traditional whole breast radiation over a 4-5 week period, or something I’d never heard about before—SAVI. It was my choice to make. I was impressed by what seemed like state-of-the-art treatment, but I needed to be sure I was making the safest choice for my future recovery, not just one that sounded “easier” and quicker. Dr. Addesa, another blessing in my life, explained the studies and assured me that I was not compromising my recovery, but rather ensuring it, because the radiation was directed to a very specific area. He made me comfortable choosing SAVI, and knowing I was a good candidate gave me a little more hope.

The insertion was done by Dr. Kleban on a Friday. The idea of having a catheter inserted into my breast for a week was worrisome. But being in her care again calmed me and the procedure was relatively painless. In place of my lucky bra, I was now wearing a more ‘industrial strength’ bra to secure the catheter.

There was absolutely no pain during the entire time the catheter was in place. However, the idea of having a device in my body made me weak in the knees. Admittedly, I was frightened at my first treatment, but the technicians at South Florida Radiation Oncologists were kind, reassuring and understanding. The nurses were equally sweet and gentle. I was able to build relationships with my caregivers that made me feel safe and secure. I drove myself to each treatment, felt no effects from the radiation, and carried on my normal daily activity.

Nerves resurfaced Friday. They tried to assure me the catheter removal is quick and painless, but I wasn’t buying it. Once the last dose of radiation was administered, one of the radiologists came in to remove the catheter, my nurse took hold of my hand and before I could say, “Lidocaine, please,” the catheter was out. I was done. I put on my lucky bra, thanked everyone, and headed home.

That was the end of September 2012. In January 2013 I had my follow-up with Dr. Addesa—all was fine—and in February I had my 6-month mammogram and ultrasound. Again, everything is fine. While the first few months of retirement in our new home didn’t quite turn out as we imagined, I am forever grateful to the kindness and compassion of everyone with whom we came in contact.