In June 2013, Christi M. was looking forward to spending the day outside with a friend. While applying sunscreen, her lighthearted attitude instantly changed. She felt a small lump on her breast. After confiding in her friend, she immediately contacted her Utica Park Clinic OB/Gyn to learn that, unfortunately, the doctor was out of the office that week. With no desire to wait for any length of time, Christi made an appointment with Sreelatha Krishna, M.D., a Utica Park Clinic internal medicine physician. “She let me cry in her exam room with her for a good five minutes straight,” Christi said. After providing comfort and emotional support, Dr. Krishna referred Christi to Hillcrest Hospital South for a mammogram and a sonogram.
Christi’s next step was to schedule a biopsy. While that normally takes some time, Utica Park Clinic board-certified breast surgeon, Laurie Flynn, M.D., was able to perform that procedure at Hillcrest Medical Center only a few days later. The results revealed what Christi feared – breast cancer.
“I immediately went into fight mode,” Christi said. She tried anything and everything that might help. “I changed my diet and went vegan. I added supplements that I thought would be beneficial. I met with a nutritionist. I had a thermography performed.”
After considering her options for cancer treatment, she chose Edwin McCreary, M.D., a board-certified medical oncologist at Utica Park Clinic. Christi had no interest in delaying treatment and Dr. McCreary’s staff made an appointment with her for the next day.
“I really like him,” she said. “He’s genuine. He answered all of my questions. He was very encouraging on the recent nutrition decisions I had made. His bedside manner was amazing. And it wasn’t only him. His staff was just as amazing as he was.”
She began chemotherapy treatments on July 17. Due to her nutritional and supplemental improvements, she was ready. “I was focused on healing. It was the best I had ever felt in my life,” she said.
Although she normally considers herself a quiet person, while going through infusion treatments at the Hillcrest Infusion Center, she met and swapped stories with others who were going through similar situations. She also shared her experiences with friends at work. She found all of this to be refreshing. “God puts people in your life when you need them,” she said. “While I was infusing for cancer treatment, I was defusing some of the negatives in my life by opening up to other people.”
In December 2013, Christi had no evidence of breast cancer. Her experience has left her with advice for others, including getting a mammogram annually. Because an unintentional self-exam helped her discover a lump early when it’s more easily treatable, she encourages you to perform self-exams frequently between screenings. Most importantly, “you have to be your own advocate,” she said. “Take care of yourself. If you’re not getting what you feel is best for you, don’t stop until you do get it. Ask a lot of questions. Don’t settle.”
“The whole experience actually did me good,” she said. “It grounded me with my family and friends and taught me to not sweat the small stuff. It was a life-changing experience for the better.”
Christi then added, “But don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t want to do it again.”