Community, comfort and convenience are three words Fran Baker, 42, of Brunswick,
Ga., uses to describe her experience at Southeast Georgia Health System
as a result of another word that begins with “C” — cancer.
Born and raised in Screven, Ga., Baker says she lived a “Leave it
to Beaver” kind of life. But her life changed significantly when
she turned 40. Two months after celebrating her birthday in New York City
with friends, her father had a stroke. “My whole world began to
crash down around me,” says Baker.
Less than a week later, Baker’s father suffered another stroke and
she went into “survival mode.” Knowing she still needed to
take care of her own health, Baker scheduled her annual appointment with
Mitchell V. Brock, M.D., board-certified physician with Southeast Georgia
Physician Associates-Obstetrics & Gynecology, a strategic affiliate
of the Health System. Given she had recently turned 40, she also had her
first mammogram. Baker’s father passed away on November 8, 2014,
and twelve days later she found out she had breast cancer.
The whirlwind that had become Baker’s life sped up and became a rapid
series of doctors and decisions. She had an eight-centimeter tumor in
her right breast that was estrogen driven and being fed by her ovaries.
Therefore, she would also need a hysterectomy. “When things like
this happen,” notes Baker, “everyone wants to give you advice
about where to go and who to see. But a friend of mine sharing her own
experience said I should trust my instincts on selecting my cancer care
team; and she was right, I chose Southeast Georgia Health System and I
wouldn’t have gone anywhere else.”
Her confidence in the Health System was solidified after her first meeting
with Duane P. Moores, M.D., Ph.D., board-certified medical oncologist
with Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Hematology & Oncology,
a strategic affiliate of the Health System. Fran recalls, “He told
me, ‘This is serious, you could die, but not today and not on my
watch.’ I never felt I got a death sentence, and after losing my
dad, knew if I could get through that I can get through cancer.”
Her decision to “stay home” was further clarified following
her appointment with Diane G. Bowen, M.D., board-certified plastic surgeon
with Golden Isles Center for Plastic Surgery. As they were discussing
reconstruction options, Dr. Bowen called the surgeon performing her mastectomy,
Stephen G. Barrett, M.D., a board-certified general surgeon with Southeast
Georgia Physician Associates-Glynn General & Vascular Surgery, another
strategic affiliate of the Health System. “While I was sitting there,
Dr. Bowen got Dr. Barrett on the phone, we talked it out and decisions
were made,” Baker says. “What I loved about the care at the
Health System is that each member of my team stayed in their lane of expertise,
but supported and validated one another. They were all in sync and all
Baker underwent her mastectomy in December 2014 and began her chemotherapy
at the Southeast Georgia Health System Cancer Care Center in January 2015.
She reaffirms, “I just can’t say enough about Dr. Moores,
the Health System and the Cancer Care Center. When I went in for my first
treatment, I recognized nurse Donna Sulkowsky, R.N., OCN from church.
She has a caring nature and loving spirit, and it meant a lot to me to
already know her personality and her heart. God took care of me through
the whole experience and she was one of those people who was a gift.”
Being cared for by other Health System team members she knew from the community
also contributed to her experience. “Everyone truly cares,”
says Baker. “They know who you are and they want the best for you.”
That sense of community extended beyond the Health System when The Heritage
Bank, her husband Cle’s employer, entered a bra in her honor in
the 2015 ARTrageous Bras Fundraiser. MINIONmizing Cancer was the message
of the Minion-themed bra.
And like the Minions, her husband, mom, two children and an army of friends
helped Baker through her journey with love, prayers, support and fellowship.
She finished her treatments on December 3, 2015, and today is more than
just surviving, she is looking ahead. While the past couple of years have
been about one day and one appointment at time, Baker is now focused on
a different word that begins with “C.” In November, she and
Cle will celebrate 15 years of marriage and will be going on a cruise.