Compassionate Care, a Great Patient Experience and Close to Home

October 12, 2020

Alice Hurt, 59, has always gone to St. Mary’s Women’s Imaging Center for her annual mammograms. In January 2020, her results indicated she might have a cyst that needed further evaluation. She was scheduled for an ultrasound, but, because the results were unclear, a needle biopsy was recommended.Alice Hurt speaking with St. Mary's staff person

“When I got my results back, they indicated I had invasive ductal carcinoma. It was grade 3, stage 1B, triple negative tumor, and considered aggressive,” says Hurt. “They suggested I see a surgeon as soon as possible to discuss my options.”

While she was waiting for that appointment, Hurt saw an oncologist at St. Mary’s. Since Hurt’s mother and some aunts died of breast cancer, the doctor advised that she get tested for the BRCA gene. A body scan was also done to make sure the cancer had not spread anywhere else. Hurt tested postitive for the BRCA gene, and based on those results, she could have a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation, a single mastectomy or a double mastectomy, each followed by chemotherapy. She chose to have the double mastectomy and chemotherapy.

Surgery was scheduled for March 10, right before restrictions were put in place because of COVID-19. During the operation, doctors also checked her lymph nodes for any evidence of cancer. Luckily, it had not spread. She returned to St. Mary’s to have her chemotherapy port placed and began chemotherapy treatment in June.

“I had some nasty side effects from the first chemo drugs, including blood pressure issues, but my doctor was great and switched me to a different chemo medication. I am now getting one dose of chemo each week,” says Hurt. “The nurses here at St. Mary’s Cancer Center are amazing. I have two regular nurses, Susan and Minka, who are fabulous — they take such great care of me. The whole team is like a family. They are always pleasant, positive and you can tell they all truly care about each patient.”

Hurt recalls when her mother had breast cancer and was going through chemo. “I will never forget how cold and unfriendly it was. I am not having that experience here. Their goal is to make a difference and try to make your life better, and they are succeeding,” says Hurt. “You never feel you are struggling alone. Even the director, Weslie White, takes care of me.”

“This team has a caring spirit and we consider it our mission to provide the best patient experience we can,” says Weslie White, RN, director of St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center Cancer Center. “We focus on helping the patient navigate their cancer journey, providing a personalized treatment plan and having the best possible outcomes.”

Hurt highly recommends everything about St. Mary’s. “I know early detection of breast cancer is a big deal, which is why I get yearly mammograms. Last year, they saw nothing on the images. I did not have any symptoms, so if I had not gone for my mammogram in January, who knows what could have happened,” she says. “St. Mary’s is also close by and everything is conveniently located in one area.”

What is her advice for other women? “Get your regular mammogram and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Join a support group, because those going through this are the ones who understand,” she says. “You need to trust God to heal you, but you also need to trust your medical team. I was very much against chemo, but I trust the doctors and nurses who do this all the time, and they have worked very hard to make sure I have minimal side effects. I am glad they are with me on this journey.”