Wife, Mother and Cancer Survivor
"When the CT scans showed that the cancer was all gone, I felt joyous. It was a very emotional day, an awesome day, a new beginning."
She Celebrated Her “Rebirthday” Cancer-Free
Melanie Fritz will never forget her 48th birthday, the day she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“I never thought I’d get cancer,” said the Saginaw woman. “The diagnosis was a big surprise.” Fortunately, the following year, she was able to celebrate her “rebirthday” cancer-free after successful treatment at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland.
Hodgkins lymphoma affects the lymph nodes, and finding a lump under her arm sent Melanie to her family doctor, who recommended she see a specialist for a biopsy.
Melanie had heard about the cancer treatment program at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland and Oncologist/Hematologist Ahmed Abdel-Maksoud, M.D. She wanted to find out more before she made the important decision about where to be diagnosed and treated.
“The facility and people at Midland were very nice, and once I met Dr. Maksoud, I knew that was where I wanted to go. It was worth the drive,” she said.
Finding a Better Outlook
When she and her husband, Denny, went to see Dr. Maksoud for the first time, Melanie realized that he saw cancer treatment differently: not simply as a doctor providing treatment to a patient, but as a team effort to cure her cancer, with her own efforts as a vital part.
“I knew I had to have strength to deal with this, and Dr. Maksoud gave me a much better outlook. He said that this cancer was curable, and that we had to be like an army and attack it in a positive way. It was never ‘I:’ It was ‘we.’ He also asked if I believed in God, and acknowledged faith as an important part of the effort.”
On Dr. Maksoud’s advice, Melanie took six months off from her work as a medical biller while she was receiving treatment.
During a week of testing that included diagnosis and staging, or determining the stage of the cancer, Melanie began keeping a journal of what was happening when, and how she felt about what she was going through.
For her initial diagnosis and later restaging, Dr. Maksoud used a test combining positron emission tomography (PET) and computerized tomography (CT), which is very sensitive in staging Hodgkins lymphoma. Melanie also had ultrasound and a biopsy, followed by surgical removal of the affected lymph nodes.
The next week was her first chemotherapy treatment at the Infusion Center on the campus of the Medical Center in Midland. After that, she had chemotherapy treatments every other week for five months.
“I liked the atmosphere at the Infusion Center,” Melanie said. “The people were all remarkable, from the staff at the front desk to the nurses and volunteers in the back. They were just really there for me, like a family,” she said. “I almost looked forward to going to see them.”
Support From Her Team
Before every chemotherapy session, Dr. Maksoud met with Melanie and Denny to discuss her progress. Then, she would settle into a comfortable chair in a cubicle with a picture window that looked out on a lovely wooded area. During the five-hour treatment, she would watch TV, go online, nap or do other quiet activities.
MidMichigan's Oncology Nurse Navigator guided, counseled and supported Melanie and Denny through each step of her diagnosis and treatment.
“If I ever had any kind of problem or symptom, if I was unsure, she was just a phone call away. She is so upbeat, and has such a positive attitude as a friend and as a professional. She is just remarkable. She worked with my husband and daughters and was by my side through the whole thing. I could not have done it without her.”
After each treatment, Melanie would feel low for a few days; but after that she was able to do everyday activities, although she would tire more easily than normal.
“I did really well with the chemo. Dr. Maksoud told me I was taking it like a 20-year-old,” she said. “I was kind of a hermit, though, because it was cold and flu season. If I did go out, I stayed away from people.”
Melanie kept relying on her husband’s support, her positive attitude, encouragement from the people at MidMichigan and her faith in God.
“Dr. Maksoud’s positivity kept me going,” she said. “He has such a warm and compassionate personality. You don’t get that everywhere, that’s for sure.”
A New Beginning
Finally, in May, CT scans showed that the cancer was all gone. The only treatment left was a brief course of radiation in case any cells remained. She would follow up with blood tests every three months and a CT scan every six months.
“I felt joyous,” she said. “It was a very emotional day, an awesome day, a new beginning.”
Just three days after receiving the good news, Melanie went to a cancer survivor celebration. “The timing was perfect,” she said. “The family came and we released butterflies. That was amazing, especially for being such a fresh survivor.”
“I can’t say enough good things about everyone there at the Medical Center in Midland,” she said. ”For anyone who is ever diagnosed with cancer, I would recommend going there.”
Melanie Fritz’s story is just one example of MidMichigan’s advanced technology and expertise for cancer treatment and rehabilitation. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with cancer, ask your doctor for a referral to a MidMichigan surgeon or oncologist, or call MidMichigan Health Line for a physician referral at (800) 999-3199. Online, visit www.midmichigan.org/cancer or www.midmichigan.org/rehabilitation.