Aggie Edgar-Mackie - Gladwin, MI
"I was thankful for radiologist Dr. Jeffrey Herman for identifying the tumor early."
New Treatment for Breast Cancer is Fast and Thorough
Aggie Edgar-Mackie of Gladwin was beaming when she left MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland’s Radiation Oncology Department on an afternoon in late January. The petite red head had just been cleared for a return appointment in six months after receiving treatment for breast cancer. Instead of thinking about cancer, however, her thoughts were on singing in her church choir, playing piano for church services and starting the seeds she will plant in her garden this spring.
Aggie credits all of her health care providers for early diagnosis of Stage I breast cancer in November 2013. “Thank goodness for my doctor, Marcelino Barreto, M.D. He’s always very thorough. He saved my life.”
Aggie and her family were hoping that it wasn’t cancer when the routine mammogram that Dr. Barreto ordered revealed a small tumor. She is number 15 of 16 siblings and two of her sisters died at ages 57 of cancer, plus her aunts had breast cancer and her father was a prostate cancer survivor. “My sisters were especially concerned. It was devastating…but it wasn’t… because Jessica Fodrocy, R.N., B.S.N., C.B.P.N.-I.C., (the nurse navigator) presented the tumor as being very small. Still, I was hoping they were going to say it’s not cancer. I was thankful for Dr. Jeffrey Herman (the radiologist) for identifying the tumor early. I sent him a thank-you note,” she said.
The breast health team at MidMichigan guided Aggie through every step of her testing, procedures, surgery and radiation. Breast Health Nurse Gail Cramton, R.N.-C., C.B.P.N.-I.C., was with Aggie through the next step, a breast biopsy. When they learned that it was cancer, she was there with a hug of encouragement for Aggie. Then Fodrocy, a certified breast nurse navigator, met with her and Breast Surgeon Kelly Wirsing, M.D., as Dr. Wirsing explained her options. That’s when Dr. Wirsing explained that SAVI® accelerated partial breast irradiation would be a good course of treatment for Aggie following a lumpectomy. This procedure surgically removes the tumor and surrounding margins.
SAVI is an approach is becoming a more widely used alternative to traditional radiation and requires two treatments per day for only five days, whereas traditional breast radiation is delivered five times a week and may take up to six or seven weeks. MidMichigan is the only radiation center north of Flint where SAVI is available.
The day of Aggie’s surgery a tiny incision was made and the catheter was inserted into the tumor site. “I went to choir practice the same day,” she said. Although in retrospect, she would advise others to take it easy and rest. Each day during the treatment the site is scanned with computed tomography (CT) to be sure the catheter remains in position.
Aggie had lots of support during her treatment. “I am grateful for the support and love that I had from my husband, Terry, who was also my home nurse and caretaker, my family and friends and for the prayers and kind thoughts during this time.” Every day, Aggie had a ride from Gladwin to Midland with a friend or family member. “They wanted to help,” she said.
“I totally and completely know that God has my life in his hands. I am at peace with it. I don’t believe that God gives us cancer, but I believe he walks us through it.”
On Dec. 20 the catheter was removed. There were no stiches, just small bandages to close the site, and there were no skin irritations at all. “Dr. Michel Hurtubise, my medical oncologist, and Dr. Rajnikant Mehta, my radiation oncologist, and their nurses were amazed at how good my breast skin looked,” she said.
On Dec. 22, Aggie was playing in the church, and on Dec. 26, she returned to work at the Gladwin Area Transit. Her treatment now includes daily doses of a cancer preventive hormone called Tamoxifen.
“I was tired after radiation, and sore, but I feel good now.” It’s pretty certain that this coming Sunday, as she does on most Sundays, Aggie will be singing praises in her church choir as she looks forward to spring and planting her garden.
SAVI® is a registered trademark of Cianna Medical, Inc., of Aliso Viejo, Calif.
Those interested in a referral to a breast surgeon associated with MidMichigan Health may, visit www.midmichigan.org/breast or call MidMichigan Health Line counselors toll-free at (800) 999-3199.