Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

Women’s Health

November 18th, 2016

Relieving Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment With Microsurgery

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic


Angenette Monroe with her surgeon, Antonio Forte, M.D.

In May 2013, at age 47, Angenette Monroe was diagnosed with invasive cancer in her left breast. After six months of chemotherapy, she had a mastectomy as part of her treatment plan.

The former gastroenterology technologist had participated in many medical procedures and was well aware of the challenges people can face after surgery. But as an active woman who exercised and was always on the go, Angenette never expected her treatment would prevent her from enjoying life.

But it did. Side effects after surgery kept Angenette from activities with her husband, including running and traveling, as well as visits with her three children and her grandchild.

She also dealt with lymphedema for more than a year. Then Angenette turned to physicians at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus for help. They were able to offer her a unique surgical approach, called lymphovenous bypass, that eased her symptoms.

She had picked the right place to seek help.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Breast Cancer, Dr Antonio Forte, Dr Dawn Mussallem, Florida Campus, lymphedema, mastectomy, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

January 30th, 2016

Mother and Daughter Winning Battle With Cancer Despite Family History of the Disease

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Yadira and Valeria Zepeda are mother and daughter cancer survivors. Most of us have known someone with cancer, either in our family or with a friend or an acquaintance. But cancer can be particularly cruel when it seems to target a specific family over and over again. For the Zepeda family of Miami, cancer has stricken a mother, her daughter, a number of other family members, and even the family dog.

Yadira Zepeda, a 67-year-old mother of four adult children, was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1991 and was told by her physician in Miami that she probably had two to four months to live. Not satisfied with what she heard and unwilling to give up after receiving that devastating news, at a friend’s recommendation she came to Mayo Clinic's Florida campus for the second opinion that has given her life and hope for the past 24 years.

“My Mayo physician for many years, Gerardo Colon-Otero, M.D., said at the time that while my condition was serious and that he couldn’t promise me a miracle, we would fight my disease with every available option, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and eventually with a bone marrow transplant which I received in 1994,” Yadira says. “While it’s been a long battle, including visits to Mayo every three months for many years, my condition has stabilized, and I’m still living my life, and I am able to enjoy my family long after I wasn’t supposed to be here.”

Yadira’s own battle with cancer took a back seat when in June 2008 her daughter Valeria was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia after unexplained bruises began appearing on her legs and arms. Based on her mother’s experience, Valeria went to Mayo Clinic and began receiving targeted chemotherapy for her disease. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Allogenic Bone Marrow Transplant, Bilateral Masectomay, Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, Dr Candido Rivera, Dr. Gerardo Colon-Otero, Dr Sikander Ailawashi, multiple myeloma

January 4th, 2016

Retired Nurse Goes “All In” for Weight Loss, Sheds Pounds, Gains Energy and Passion

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

SunnyJohnson805It's tempting to describe Sonya "Sunny" Johnson, a retired Mayo Clinic nurse, as a poster child for successful weight loss surgery. Cliché or not, she readily accepts the moniker as a point of pride.

In fact, these days, when Sunny passes a mirror, she asks herself, "Who is that?"

Her ambitious journey to weight loss began in December 2010. This time, she vowed, she was ready. Like many dieters, Sunny had endured her share of stops and starts with popular weight loss plans. "My weight went up and down, and again up and down," she says. "But when I retired, my excuses were used up. I thought, okay, this is my turn to take care of me." At that point, she says, the scale read 254 pounds. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Arizona campus, bariatric surgery, Gastric Bypass Surgery, Mayo Clinic Bariatric Program, weight loss

September 4th, 2015

Critical Care Team Gives Young Mom Second Chance in Fight Against Cancer

By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss cindyweiss

Mayo Clinic cancer patient Hollis Younger enjoying timel with family. Three years had passed since Hollis Youngner, 34, had been diagnosed and treated for HER2+ breast cancer. So in late 2014, when the mother of one was "just feeling yucky, tired, nauseous," she says cancer wasn't even on her mind. "I was secretly excited, thinking of ways to tell everyone I was pregnant," she says.

Unfortunately, a chest X-ray, prompted by a complaint of being short of breath, set in motion a series of events that ultimately resulted in a diagnosis of stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, a 45-minute CPR session, and questions about whether the young mom would even survive.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Breast Cancer, Florida Campus, Metastatic Cancer, Dr John Moss, Dr Diaz-Gomez, Dr Moreno, Hollis, Pulmonary Embolism

February 2nd, 2015

An Extension of the Heart

By Hoyt Finnamore HoytFinnamore

Marla Burkhart with her son, Noah.Marla Burkhart’s heart was functioning at roughly 30 percent when she was rushed to the hospital for an emergency cesarean section eight weeks before the due date of her first child. After she and her husband had chosen a name for their child, she placed her faith in her heart and the support of a network of family, friends, co-workers and Mayo Clinic staff, as baby Noah was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, and Marla, to the Critical Cardiac Care Unit.

Just three hours prior to the surgery, Marla had been diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy, a rare pregnancy-related heart condition. Occurring in roughly 1 in 3,000 deliveries, it is the result of an enlarged, weakened heart. The condition is generally diagnosed during the last months of pregnancy and causes inefficient blood circulation.

Marla originally thought her symptoms were just normal changes resulting from her pregnancy. Even when her legs gave out at eight weeks, she shrugged it off. She had problems sleeping due to shortness of breath, and she eventually had to sleep upright.

Marla switched to Mayo Clinic from another provider in the middle of her pregnancy because she had struggled with becoming pregnant in the past and says she wanted the best possible care. At her 32-week appointment, she described her continued discomfort to her physician. An ECG revealed an abnormality. She was shocked by the diagnosis. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: cardiomyopathy, Go Red for Women, Heart Month, NICU

January 7th, 2015

Facing Breast Cancer: Lynn Gallett’s story

By Hoyt Finnamore HoytFinnamore

When Lynn Gallett was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had a number of concerns and decisions to make. In the video below, Lynn discusses the process and her experience at Mayo Clinic.


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Tags: Arizona campus, Breast Cancer, chemotherapy, Dr Donald Northfelt, Dr Barbara Pockaj

August 14th, 2013

The Woman Patient: Is Her Voice Heard?


Portrait of Dr. Mary I. O'Connor, chair of the Department of Orthopedics at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

Mary I. O'Connor, M.D., chair of the Department of Orthopedics at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

[Editor's Note: Following is an article by Mary I. O'Connor, M.D., chair of the Department of Orthopedics at Mayo Clinic in Florida, sharing her perspective on how gender affects the care of women today.]

Should a woman have a female doctor? As a woman and an orthopedic surgeon, I am sometimes asked that question. While some women may be more comfortable discussing intimate matters related to sexual and reproductive health with a woman physician, a general assumption is that the care provided to patients by physicians is not influenced by gender. Unfortunately, data suggests that women do not always receive the same care as men.

This is not a simple issue. There are many factors that influence the patient-physician interaction and relationship. But the factor that may be the most powerful may be one we know surprisingly little about in the health care setting: unconscious bias. Unconscious bias may be the reason women receive fewer kidney transplants and heart surgeries. It may be so powerful that it even influences the care provided to children. A 2011 study by Butani and Perez showed girls are 22 percent less likely to be placed on a kidney transplant list than boys. Because an earlier transplant equates to better health, this gender disparity likely impacts the long-term outcome of these young women.

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Tags: Florida, Mary O'Connor, MayoClinicFL, opinion, orthopedic

May 17th, 2013

To Test or Not to Test – Genetics, That Is

By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss cindyweiss

Maegan Roberts, a certified genetic counselor at Mayo Clinic, helps determine if someone should be tested for cancer-causing genes. She works closely with the Breast Clinic at Mayo Clinic.

Maegan Roberts, a certified genetic counselor at Mayo Clinic, helps determine if someone should be tested for cancer-causing genes. She works closely with the Breast Clinic at Mayo Clinic.

So I wonder if anyone else spent part of Tuesday, May 14, 2013, pondering what they would do.

Would they take the test to learn if they were at increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer? What if it came back positive? What decision would they make – to keep their breasts and uterus or remove them? Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: American Indians, Angelina Jolie, Breast Cancer, Florida, Genetic Counseling, genetics, hysterectomy, internal medicine, Maegan Roberts, MayoClinicFL, Stephanie Hines

May 13th, 2013

Girl Scout Dr. Sharonne Hayes Receives Award

By Makala Arce MakalaJohnson

Dr. Sharonne Hayes, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, in April was named one of the Girl Scout River Valleys 2013 Women of Distinction.

When Dr. Hayes began working at Mayo Clinic, she became keenly aware that women in medicine, and particularly in cardiology, were still a minority. As she began her career in cardiology, she also saw the unique needs of women suffering from or at risk for cardiovascular disease, so in 1998 she founded Mayo Clinic’s Women’s Heart Clinic, one of the first in the country. The clinic provides sex-and gender-based cardiovascular care and women-focused research with a goal to improve clinical outcomes and advance the science. As a pioneer in the women’s health field, Dr. Hayes is a nationally recognized educator and advocate for women’s cardiovascular issues. She serves on the Board of Directors of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. In addition to her role as cardiologist, Dr. Hayes also became the first director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Mayo Clinic in 2010.

Dr. Hayes has been a Girl Scout for as long as she can remember and credits her mother for her positive experience in scouting. She believes in the power of the Girl Scout sisterhood and knows all girls have the potential to be leaders who can make the world a better place through service.

Since 2009, Girl Scouts River Valleys has annually honored local role models whose professional accomplishments, leadership and community contributions inspire girls to reach their highest potential.

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Tags: Cardiology, girl scout, heart, Sharonne Hayes, women

March 21st, 2013

He Said, She Said: How One Couple Battled Colon Cancer Together

By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss cindyweiss

Sue Willingham remembers the May 2010 day well. She was getting ready to take her two children to school. But before leaving the house, she did what any mom might – use the restroom.

But then she noticed she’d lightly soiled her undergarments. Only she didn’t remember it happening.

Mayo Clinic patients Sue and Darrin Willingham

Mayo Clinic patients Sue and Darrin Willingham

At 45, Willingham was the picture of health. She ate well, exercised and stayed up on doctor visits. But in that moment, something changed. She called her husband. “I remember telling him I’m scared,” she says.

But then Willingham, who describes herself as someone who is not easily rattled, tried to rationalize the accident, chalking it up to the six fiber pills she’d taken the day before to combat constipation.

“Being one that does not jump to conclusions or get upset or scared of anything easily, I said this is ridiculous, crazy, there is nothing wrong with me. I have no cancer in my family. I have no anything…” But today she admits, “Maybe subconsciously I had been aware of what he had gone through the year before.”

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Tags: colo-rectal cancer, colon, colon cancer, colonoscopy, MayoClinicFL

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