Rita Garcia, known for her brilliant smile and bubbly disposition, was alarmed when she detected a small drop of blood in her urine the morning before her annual physical. So when the 70-year-old mother of five and grandmother of eight visited her primary care doctor ready to discuss the discovery, she was determined to keep her positive attitude intact. Following a biopsy, Rita was told by her doctor that she had uterine cancer. A healthy and active woman, Rita was prepared for the worst.
“I immediately thought, ‘Surgery and radiation?’” says Rita. “My doctor referred me to Midwest Cancer Care at Research Medical Center.”
There, Verda Hunter-Hicks, MD, gynecologic oncologist, performed surgery for staging of the cancer and, based on her findings, recommended postoperative radiation therapy. After six weeks of recovery from her surgery, Rita saw John Sheldon, MD, radiation oncologist, at Research Medical Center, and he offered a new kind of hope to an anxious Rita: image-guided brachytherapy, a high-dose, targeted treatment.
Midwest Cancer Care at Research Medical Center, part of HCA Midwest Health System, is one of the region’s only hospitals with the advanced capability to provide brachytherapy, which allows doctors to treat cancer cells with impressive accuracy and precision and destroy them.
Rita was concerned about potential scary side effects from any cancer treatment. “I didn’t imagine there was anything out there that was patient-friendly,” says Rita. “But Dr. Sheldon reassured me that the brachytherapy would have virtually no side effects.”
Dr. Sheldon explained brachytherapy to Rita. “It is used alone or in combination with other therapies such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy,” says Dr. Sheldon. “The radiation in brachytherapy affects a very localized area around the radiation sources so exposure to radiation of healthy tissues further away from the source is reduced.” That appealed to Rita.
Rita’s customized treatment of just three outpatient visits for brachytherapy changed her mind and gave her hope for a positive outcome to her cancer. “I was relieved there was no pain or hair loss,” says Rita.
Rita, now 72, retired and cancer-free, recommends consistent annual physicals to identify diseases such as cancer. She says her medical team at Midwest Cancer Care at Research Medical Center was proactive in treating her uterine cancer. “Dr. Hunter-Hicks, Dr. Sheldon and the entire medical team were incredible,” says Rita. “I knew what to expect every step of the way. It was like they were holding my hand.”
And when Rita thinks of her cancer today, it’s yesterday’s news. “I’m back to embracing my family and living my life,” says Rita. “My doctors thought smart, acted smart and helped me return to what I love the most: an active, fulfilling and rewarding life.”