Wife and Mom, Chihuahua Owner and Cancer Survivor
"Throughout my experience, it was very comforting to have the doctors, nurses and others at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland, and to have the Infusion Center so convenient to home. I highly recommend them all."
With Aggressive Treatment, Midland Mom Beats Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
Betsy Loose modeled a glittering outfit at the Cancer Services Style Show fundraiser in December. It was a special moment, because all the models were cancer patients or survivors. Earlier in the year, Betsy herself had fought and beaten non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
The 49-year-old Midland resident became ill in March with what she thought was stomach flu. A week later she wasn’t getting better, and her family physician, Michael Beaulieu, M.D., ordered a CT scan to check for a bowel obstruction. The scan showed two enlarged lymph nodes in her abdomen.
Five days after General Surgeon Kelly Wirsing, M.D., removed the nodes and a portion of her small intestine, Betsy learned that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Dr. Wirsing was so compassionate when she told me the news,” said Betsy. “She talked to me like a friend and took the time to explain everything to my family and answer everybody’s questions. I asked her who she would go to for treatment, and she said Dr. Maksoud.”
Seeing Cancer as a Treatable Condition
A diagnosis of cancer is understandably frightening, but Oncologist and Hematologist Ahmed Abdel-Maksoud, M.D., sees things differently. He sees cancer as a treatable condition, and by helping patients understand all that can be done with today’s therapies, medications and technologies, he helps them see things differently, too.
“After I had my meeting with him, I felt very comfortable and very confident all the way through my treatment,” Betsy said.
“Mostly what I remember is that Dr. Maksoud said we were going to treat the lymphoma aggressively. He also said if I had any pain, discomfort or nausea, to let him know right away, because there were different medications to help. He told me whatever happened, we would find a way to get through it.”
Dr. Maksoud’s plan for Betsy included eight chemotherapy treatments, one every 21 days, at the Infusion Center at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland, just a few minutes from her home.
Support from Experts, Family and Friends
“My surgeon, my oncologist and the oncology nurses were so skilled and compassionate, and supported me in so many ways throughout my diagnosis and treatment,” Betsy said.
Before starting treatment, she attended a class instructed by Oncology Nurse Rhonda Bonham, R.N., OCN.
“Rhonda talked about what would happen during chemotherapy, what to do and what to avoid, how to cope with side effects, such as losing our hair,” Betsy said. “Rhonda recommended a helpful diet, and helped us focus on getting enough rest and the importance of staying emotionally positive.
MidMichigan's Oncology Nurse Navigator was always there for Betsy to help in many ways. One was connecting her with a “buddy” who was also in chemotherapy. “That was a wonderful, wonderful thing,” Betsy said. “We talked about everything we went through and cheered each other on. We’ve become good friends.”
Agnes Williams, M.S.W., from the Maria Mencia Cancer Caregivers Network, helped her family understand what was happening. Betsy and her husband, Chris, have three daughters, ages 34, 29 and 12, and a son who is 16. Betsy said, “Agnes was a wonderful and very open person. She helped us get through some emotional times during all of this.”
“I was also very, very blessed with my family, parents, brother and sister and lots of good friends,” she said.
One friend accompanied Betsy and Chris to all medical appointments to take notes and make sure nothing was missed. Her sister brought over lots of meals. Her daughter who is a hair stylist helped keep her hair under control as it began to grow back in. Friends kept in touch with cards and notes. A couple from her church came over and they started a weekly Bible study.
One unusual but effective show of support was a gift of two seven-week-old Chihuahuas. “Fannie and Stella were a great distraction,” Betsy said, “and they gave me a reason to get up and get moving.”
Treated, Cured and Feeling Well
At the Infusion Center, Chris would settle Betsy in for the 7-hour treatment, go on to work and then pick her up when treatment was over. Betsy would sleep, watch TV or talk with family members who came to visit in the comfortable, private cubicle with a pretty view of the woods.
Betsy found that the anti-nausea medication worked, and infection-fighting shots she received the day after each treatment kept her white blood cell count from getting too low.
“After my fourth treatment, they did a PET scan, and my cancer was gone. I was hoping not to do the rest of my treatments, but I continued them to the end.”
About eight months after her diagnosis, Betsy said she felt pretty good. “It took me a while to get back to my routine and take charge again. I was foggy from chemo, but my head is a lot clearer now. I have some achy joints and tight muscles, and some skin changes, but most of the time I don’t even notice.”
From the start, Betsy felt empathy for others experiencing cancer. “It breaks my heart to think of anybody who has to go through this alone, without any family or friends to help or to just hold their hand,” she said. To support cancer patients in the community, she and her husband, daughters, son and some good friends walked the Relay for Life in July, and in December she hit the runway for Cancer Services.
“Throughout my experience,” said Betsy, “it was very comforting to have the doctors, nurses and others at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland, and to have the excellent Infusion Center so convenient to home. I highly recommend them all.”
Betsy Loose’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.