“I was just floored,” says Martha Strayer of Brunswick, Ga.,
when she learned the tumor found during her routine mammogram in September
2015 was cancer. “I never felt anything. I didn’t know it
was there until it showed up as a spot on the mammogram.”
The news was delivered by Vincent K. Arlauskas, M.D., general surgeon
with Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Glynn General & Vascular
Surgery, less than a month after her brother died from small cell lung
cancer. “I was in such shock and so grateful to Laura Wiggins, the
breast cancer nurse in Dr. Arlauskas’ office, for being there.”
Once she moved beyond her initial shock, Strayer’s clinical instincts
kicked in. Having worked as a registered nurse for 41 years at the Health
System’s Brunswick Campus, and having already survived uterine cancer,
she knew who, what and where her next steps would be.
Where to have treatment would be right here in Brunswick at the Health
System’s Cancer Care Center. “I certainly would not have gone
anywhere else,” says Strayer. “I was not interested in going
out of town. I wanted to be home with people I knew. It means a lot to
have friends and neighbors taking care of you.”
What to have done was a decision between a lumpectomy, or given this was
her second primary cancer site, a bilateral mastectomy. She chose a bilateral
mastectomy, explaining, “My sister-in-law had breast cancer and
kept having lumpectomies. I didn’t want to keep going back, I just
wanted it done.” Dr. Arlauskas agreed and 45 minutes later she met
with Steven Barr, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon with Renue Plastic
Surgery. The physicians would do the breast removal and reconstruction
surgery at the same time.
Who would provide treatment was her next decision. She selected Duane
Moores, M.D., Ph.D., board-certified medical oncologist with Southeast
Georgia Physician Associates-Hematology & Oncology, a strategic affiliate
of the Health System. When Dr. Moores offered to help her get a second
opinion, Strayer says, “I told him no. He was recommended by one
of my coworkers and I was confident he and the Cancer Care Center would
take good care of me.”
Strayer was prescribed four chemotherapy treatments, each 21 days a part.
She had her first treatment in November and planned the rest around Thanksgiving
and Christmas, noting, “As time goes on, chemo sucks your energy.
Add to that the bone and muscle pain from the Neulasta shots to help prevent
infection.” She was expecting the worst, but says attitude has a
lot to do with how you cope. Strayer also says she was blessed with support
from very good friends and family to help her through. Her final chemotherapy
treatment was administered on January 21, 2016.
Reflecting on her experience, Strayer says it very much matched her expectations
from being a part of the Health System’s care team for 41 years.
“It was absolutely a team approach,” she says. “Everybody
worked together from Dr. Arlauskas, Dr. Barr, Dr. Moores to the entire
Cancer Care Center team. I was very comfortable and confident with everyone.
Now, not only can I share the care experience here in Brunswick as a nurse,
but also as a patient.”