She Had Amazing Support Every Step of the Way
Breast cancer survivor Jerri Liphard encourages women to have timely mammograms, especially if they have a family history of breast cancer.
When Jerri Liphard found a lump in her breast late last year, she immediately scheduled an appointment with her doctor, Family Medicine Physician Jenifer Balawender, D.O. Dr. Balawender referred her to the Center for Women’s Health at MidMichigan Medical Center - Midland, where she had a mammogram, which was followed by a breast biopsy performed by Radiologist Lindsay Zeeb, M.D.
The biopsy results were positive, and on Jan. 11, 2018, Liphard was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I’ve had previous biopsies done that were negative,” she said. “When this one came back positive, it started a whirlwind of activity.”
At first, Liphard was overwhelmed with her diagnosis. “Even though I’m a registered nurse and have treated patients with cancer, when it happens to you it’s completely different,” she said. “You’re so shocked, you can barely put one foot in front of the other. Thankfully, everyone on my care team was so supportive, especially Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator Jessica Fodrocy.”
Immediately, Liphard had an MRI and a port placed, and started chemotherapy under the supervision of her Medical Oncologist Isabelle Le, M.D. “After 20 weeks of chemo, I underwent surgery,” she said. “After surgery, I had three weeks off to recover, and then I started 23 treatments of radiation. I’m currently recovering from radiation.”
Liphard’s surgery was performed at the Medical Center in Midland by Breast Surgeon Kelly Wirsing, M.D. During that surgery, she also had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed by Obstetrician/Gynecologist Natalie Kroll, D.O.
“I have a family history of not only breast cancer, but fallopian tube cancer, as well,” Liphard said. “My dad had three sisters – two had breast cancer and one had cancer in her fallopian tubes. After meeting with a genetic counselor at the University of Michigan, and talking it over with my care team at MidMichigan, we decided having my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed at the same time as my breast surgery was the best option. I’m grateful that Dr. Wirsing and Dr. Kroll coordinated their schedules to make it happen for me.”
Throughout her journey, Liphard said she’s had amazing support every step of the way. “The care I received on the general surgical floor was amazing,” she said. “I’ve had incredible support every step of the way.”
During her treatment, Liphard said she spent time in nearly every department in the Medical Center. “People don’t understand what it takes for a cancer patient to receive care,” she said. Liphard saw health care providers and staff in the Cancer Center and Center for Women’s Health, as well as the Cardiology, Lab and MRI Departments. “The compassion and empathy was evident in every department I stepped foot in,” she added. “It’s exactly what I needed at the time.”
For those going through a similar situation, Liphard stressed that you don’t have to leave the area to receive excellent care. “My health care team collaborated with doctors at the University of Michigan regularly,” she said. “MidMichigan was the best of the best. It was reassuring knowing that I was getting the best care possible. I did a lot of research, and everything my doctors and nurses did was exactly what they should have been doing.”
Additionally, Liphard encourages women to have timely mammograms, especially if they have a family history of breast cancer. “It’s been proven that if you catch breast cancer early, it’s more treatable,” she said. “Early detection is key.”
As of today, Liphard is cancer-free. “I’m thankful to the Lord for that one,” she said. “I couldn’t have gotten through this without my family and my work family. Everyone takes their health for granted. Until you lose it, you don’t really appreciate it. It feels good to feel good again.”