It was the week after Thanksgiving 2010 when she got the news. More than one year later, Stephanie Taylor is thankful cancer hasn't taken her down.
"I feel strong again," says Stephanie, 46, of Doylestown. She's back to a busy schedule of studying Business Administration at Bucks County Community College, working and raising her two teenagers.
Stephanie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. An irritating itch and a grape-sized lump under her arm brought her to the doctor, who recommended she go in for a mammogram and breast ultrasound. That's when doctors found the lump in her breast. A biopsy showed it was cancerous. Doctors then biopsied the lump under her arm and discovered the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
Photograph by H. Scott Heist
Faced with a cancer diagnosis, Stephanie had many questions and anxiety about what to do next. She turned to the Cancer Institute of Doylestown Hospital for direction.
"The staff was wonderful," says Stephanie. "Kathy Nellett held my hand during the biopsy. She was really, really kind."
Kathy Nellett, RN, OCN, CBCN, is Doylestown's Breast Care Coordinator and Genetics Nurse. As part of the care team at the Cancer Institute of Doylestown Hospital, she helps patients navigate what lies ahead. In addition to accompanying the patient during the biopsy, if requested Kathy will meet with the patient to help coordinate all aspects of her care, as well as referrals for second opinions, if requested. Doylestown Hospital is a member of the Penn Cancer Network, which allows rapid access to nationally recognized cancer experts.
Stephanie had two lumpectomies, where the surgeon removes the breast tumor and some of the surrounding tissue. Lumpectomy is sometimes called "breast-conserving" surgery. Brett Harrison, MD, is a surgeon with a particular interest in the management and treatment of breast cancer. He is just one of the general surgeons at Doylestown Hospital who offer expert care for surgeries of the breast. "Dr. Harrison was absolutely wonderful," says Stephanie. "His bedside manner was so caring."
It turned out Stephanie's cancer was very aggressive. Her oncologist, Lorraine Dougherty, MD, recommended TAC chemotherapy, a combination of three different medicines given once every three weeks for six months. She also received seven weeks of radiation.
Since Doylestown Hospital Cancer Institute participates in National Cancer Institute supported Clinical Trials, Dr. Dougherty also gave Stephanie the choice to participate in a trial. The Cancer Institute selects studies that give our community the best possible options for their cancer.
Stephanie was confident in the course of treatment advised by her doctors and clinicians at the Cancer Institute. "They're the professionals," she says. "I decided to follow their advice."
She continued: "I loved the doctors and the staff. They were so kind. Any questions I had they answered immediately. I would highly recommend them."
Just over a year out from her diagnosis, the treatments have been successful and Stephanie feels "great." She's back to her busy lifestyle as a working mother and student. She feels her upbeat attitude was key, along with help from her family and all the guidance and support she received from the staff and physicians at the Cancer Institute of Doylestown Hospital.
"Stay positive and believe in the doctors," she says. "Keep hope alive."