Liz Clary can’t help smiling when she talks about the seven alpacas on her farm, or the chickens and sheep she’s raised. “I just love all of my animals, and I love the farm,” Clary says. “It helps you stay grounded, and keeps things in perspective.” Farming is one of many things that make life worth living for Clary, and one of many things cancer wanted to take away from her. But cancer lost its battle with Clary, and each new day is a chance to celebrate the victory. Clary, who is vice president of Peninsula, a division of Parkwest Medical Center has a unique perspective on what it means to be a cancer patient. As a senior leader at Covenant Health, she has spent a lot of time discussing patient care in corporate settings, and now she can say she has personally experienced it, too. “I got what I expected, but I got double that,” Clary says. “The whole experience made me very proud of Covenant Health.”
Prompt care During Clary’s annual mammogram at Parkwest Comprehensive Breast Center in October 2016, an abnormality was detected, and the radiologist recommended an ultrasound followed by a biopsy. “I didn’t think anything of it,” Clary says. “I really went into the biopsy thinking it was just routine.”
The biopsy happened on a Thursday, and one week later she received a call that there were cancerous cells in her breast. While it’s never good news, Clary was grateful that the staff at Parkwest Breast Center had moved so quickly. There was little time to agonize over the unknown. “That was the amazing thing to me about this whole experience,” Clary says. “I went from having a mammogram to knowing I had cancer within a week. They don’t fool around with it.” Radiologist Amanda Squires, MD, says prompt diagnosis and quick response are intentional. “Our most important job as radiologists in this field is trying to catch as much disease as possible as early as possible, and the most rewarding part of our job is to walk patients through this process as quickly and calmly as possible,” Squires says. A radiologist can often detect disease five to 10 years or more before it would have declared itself clinically. And “turning the clock back” means changing the implications of breast cancer in a big way. “Finding an abnormality on a screening mammogram feels like bad news, like something went wrong,” Squires says. “The reality is that you could not ask for a greater gift, because finding the disease early takes away a huge amount of breast cancer’s power.”
Meeting of the Minds Surgeon William C. Gibson, MD, explained to Clary that many disciplines are involved in the treatment of cancer, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. He also explained the concept of the tumor board conference, where the various healthcare professionals who would be working on her case could come together as a group and develop her personal battle plan. “The surgeon is kind of the quarterback at the initial phases of treatment, but then each case is discussed at a multidisciplinary breast tumor conference where we have all the doctors at Parkwest who take care of breast cancer patients sitting at the table,” Dr. Gibson says. “Every patient who comes into the Parkwest system who is diagnosed with breast cancer benefits from having that team approach to tailor treatment specifically for the patient.”Clary’s cancer surgery and reconstruction were performed in December 2016. She laughs when she talks about Christmas. Shopping, cooking, and parties, the things that usually seem important during the holiday season, didn’t matter much last year.“I’m feeling fantastic,” Clary says. “I feel good, and I’m finished with the whole process.” Parkwest Comprehensive Breast Center is conveniently located at 9349 Park West Boulevard in Suite 205 of the West Side Medical Arts Building. To schedule a mammogram or for more information, call (865) 373-7010.