A Team Effort: One Woman's Journey Through Breast Cancer
This time last year, Amy Morris, 50, was busy at Bloomberg Radio as a morning news anchor. She worked from the early hours of the morning into the afternoon, then headed to the gym.
“Fitness is important to me, so I would leave work and work out. It was a way for me to let it all out,” Amy said.
But everything changed in October 2018, when Amy felt a lump in her breast during a routine self-exam. “When I found my lump, it was like ice started running through my veins. I completely froze.”
Grateful that she had her yearly mammogram already scheduled, Amy wanted to talk herself out of the possibility of having breast cancer. “But I felt there was a little voice in the back of my head that was saying, ‘This is new, and it’s not right,’” she said.
The following week, Amy had her mammogram at Adventist HealthCare Imaging in Germantown, Maryland. The next day, she got a call recommending further testing. Amy went to the Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Breast Center where Sonya Kella, MD, medical director for Women’s Imaging, performed her biopsy.
“Everyone I met at the Breast Center, from the doctors to the techs, were soothing and comforting, despite the anxiety that was building inside of me,” Amy said.
A few days later, Amy received the results: she had breast cancer. Dr. Kella asked Amy to return to the Breast Center as soon as possible.
“They were so understanding about the stress I was under,” Amy said. “Dr. Kella sat with me, gave me all the ins-and-outs of what I was facing, and walked me through my treatment plan.”
EXPERT, COORDINATED STRATEGY
Because she had a prior successful surgery at Shady Grove Medical Center, Amy knew she wanted to stay within the Adventist HealthCare system for her breast cancer care.
Amy met with Glenn Sandler, MD, a breast surgeon at Shady Grove Medical Center. After some additional testing to determine the right treatment plan, Dr. Sandler referred Amy to Shannon O’Connor, MD, medical oncologist and hematologist. Under the recommendation of Dr. O’Connor, Amy started chemotherapy at the Shady Grove Adventist Aquilino Cancer Center in November 2018 and finished in February 2019.
Feeling she had missed the holidays and her birthday during her treatment, Amy traveled to her home state of South Carolina to visit with her family at the beach.
“There are very few ills the beach can’t cure,” she said. She also took up light yoga and journaling as therapeutic ways of chronicling her journey.
When she returned, she jumped back into her treatment. The next step for Amy was to have a double mastectomy.
“You go through a grief period when you realize that a mastectomy is your best option,” Amy said. Ultimately, she decided to have both breasts removed, which lessened her chances of recurrence.
After her surgery, Dr. Sandler wanted to ensure Amy was all clear. He recommended the Aquilino Cancer Center, where she saw Marie Gurka, MD, for radiation treatment.
Amy is now preparing for reconstructive surgery, so she met with plastic surgeon Gregory Dick, MD, who is part of the breast program with Adventist HealthCare. “He was so reassuring,” Amy said.
A LIFE SAVED
Now back in her routine of working and exercising, Amy thinks back on her journey and says that she owes a lot to the team that was behind her each step of the way.
“The Adventist team saved my life, and they did it in a way that made me feel like I wasn’t just a number,” Amy said. “In addition to the expert care, they knew the compassion I needed, to understand when I needed a box of tissues or just a hug. These small gestures made such a big difference.”
As far as the lessons Amy learned from her breast cancer journey, she said there is one big one.
“I’m a very tough woman. I have a high pain tolerance and I never cry,” Amy said. “But through this, I’ve learned to cry. I’ve learned to let it out.
It’s not weakness, it’s release. You have to give yourself time to lose your mind, to grieve. Then, you have to pull it back together.”
COMPREHENSIVE BREAST CARE FOR YOU
Adventist HealthCare provides a full suite of breast care services – from screenings for early detection to diagnosis, support and treatment, and recovery services. Our experienced team includes fellowship-trained radiologists, physicians, surgeons and other specialized experts across our system.
- Screenings: We offer 3D mammography, along with a variety of other breast screenings.
- Diagnosis and Support: Our team of experts – which includes surgeons, oncologists, social workers and spiritual advisors – is dedicated to helping patients every step of the way and reach recovery.
- Treatment: We provide personalized treatment, from surgery to radiation and infusion. Minimally invasive technologies, such as the SAVI SCOUT® and Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation, can mean less stress and a shorter recovery time.
- Recovery: We support our patients after treatment with several wellness programs to further facilitate physical, mental and spiritual healing.