She’s Not in Kansas AnymoreMidwesterner finds Cancer Reprieve at Eisenhower by J. Tracy Hermann | photo by Charlie Reese Her first thought was one of terror – “absolute terror.”
That’s what Yvonne Hawk,an otherwise healthy and active 62-year-old, felt when she received the startling diagnosis in March of this year – a diagnosis that more than 250,000 women receive annually here in the United States when they are told they have breast cancer.Hawk, a resident of Leavenworth, Kansas, who gardens, paints and walks regularly,was unprepared for this startling news from her radiologist.
“I’ve been one of those health nuts most of my life, taking vitamins regularly and getting a lot of exercise,”Yvonne says.“I was absolutely floored to learn that I had breast cancer.”
Although she was caught unaware and terrified,Yvonne Hawk refused to let the fear immobilize her and immediately moved into action, looking at her options and scheduling surgery. Soon after her March 30 diagnosis, she had a lumpectomy performed by a Kansas City, Missouri-area surgeon, but the surgeon failed to get all the cancer, and 10 days later Yvonne had another lumpectomy. Soon after that – in her third surgery since her diagnosis – she had nine lymph nodes removed.
“I was so ticked off,” Yvonne recounts with a huff. “I just couldn’t understand why they couldn’t get all the cancer out in one fell swoop.”
A week after the operation to remove her lymph nodes,Yvonne and her husband Michael were on a plane to the desert to take part in a family reunion here.Michael’s brother,Robert Hawk,who sits on Eisenhower Medical Center’s Board of Directors, suggested Yvonne get a second – local – opinion,and called Eisenhower’s Chairman of the Board, Harry M. Goldstein.
“And Mr. Goldstein called Dr.Khanna,”Yvonne says cheerfully. “That woman is an absolute genius!”
Eisenhower’s Board Certified Radiation Oncologist Monica Khanna, MD, met with Yvonne, reviewed her case and determined that Eisenhower’s new MammoSite™ Radiation Therapy System would be the best treatment option for Yvonne’s particular situation.
“Her cancer was relatively small and ideally suited for partial breast radiation,”Dr. Khanna says. “Because MammoSite delivers radiation to only a portion of the breast,I suggested Yvonne strongly consider this as an option.”
The MammoSite™ treatment allows for accelerated delivery of radiation treatment by utilizing high-dose rate technology and is delivered over five days after placement of the MammoSite™ catheter. The device allows for the temporary placement of a radioactive source directly into the area of tumor involvement, each treatment session requiring only a few minutes to complete.The treatment is used in conjunction with the surgical removal of the breast tumor. “Just about every kind of cancer treatment technology there is, we have it here at Eisenhower. The technology we have here today rivals any cancer center nationally.” – Monica Khanna, MD
Another big benefit of MammoSite™ therapy: “It is only a one week treatment versus the six to seven weeks of treatment with conventional radiation,” Dr. Khanna reports. “Yvonne had some fears about conventional radiation.”
Left: Yvonne and Michael Hawk in Yvonnne’s studio.Yvonne returned to the Midwest with high hopes of getting started with MammoSite™ therapy. Much to her surprise, however, she discovered that no one in Leavenworth or the greater Kansas City, Missouri, area offered this revolutionary new treatment procedure. Husband Michael spent hours on the phone with Tricare (medical insurance program) to find a local provider.The insurance provider felt the Hawks should be able to find someone locally who could provide the procedure, but this was not the case.
“We called around and found out that no one could do it,”Yvonne recalls.“No one in Kansas or Missouri had even heard of MammoSite.”
Although Dr.Khanna was also a little surprised by the news,she wasn’t as surprised as Yvonne. Eisenhower typically leads the way in new technologies and treatment options for cancer care.
“We were the first in the valley to have MammoSite™,” says Dr. Khanna. “Just about every kind of cancer treatment technology there is, we have it here at Eisenhower. The technology we have here today rivals any cancer center nationally.”
Yvonne quickly decided her fate lay with Eisenhower, and with no hesitation, decided to have the MammoSite™ treatment done here. She was met with another challenge, however…getting the insurance to pay for the service.That’s when an “angel” stepped in, an angel by the name of Chila Aceves,who works as a Patient Financial Counselor at Eisenhower Medical Center. Chila worked diligently with Tricare to get the company to pay for the procedure.
“She was just awesome!” Yvonne says of Chila and her tireless efforts.“I just can’t say enough about what that means to me.”
It’s that “what it means to me” response that Yvonne can go on and on about.Now, months later,Yvonne, who has five grandchildren, is alive, cancer free and “feeling better than ever.”
“I never felt this good,” she says. “I’m doing some weight training and additional exercise, and I’m looking forward to each new day with so much renewed excitement. I’m glad I’m going to be around to enjoy my life with my family, and I have the fine people at Eisenhower to thank for that.”