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1 day ago · Crossing the Finish Line With Help From Sports Medicine

After a decade of running 5Ks, 10Ks and half-marathons, pain was keeping Kaitlyn Johnson from the sport she loved. Though she feared her running days were over, a comprehensive treatment plan developed by Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine allowed Kaitlyn to get back to running and achieve one of her biggest personal goals.

After a decade of running 5Ks, 10Ks and half-marathons, pain was keeping Kaitlyn Johnson from the sport she loved. Though she feared her running days were over, a comprehensive treatment plan developed by Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine allowed Kaitlyn to get back to running and achieve one of her biggest personal goals.




Kaitlyn
Johnson’s love of running began 11 years ago when she ran a 5K to raise money
for a women’s shelter. “The feeling when I finished was amazing, and I
knew I was going to keep running,” Kaitlyn says. “Throughout college,
I did a lot of local 5Ks and worked my way up to the Monument Avenue 10K in
Richmond, Virginia, during my junior year.”

When
she moved to Minnesota for law school, running became a daily stress reliever.
“I would run a lot throughout the week,” Kaitlyn says. “It was
meditative and helped me feel at peace.”

In
2013, she completed her first 10-mile race. “The feeling of accomplishment
was absolutely incredible. I felt unstoppable,” Kaitlyn says. “To me,
it’s all about being the best runner I personally can be.”

Kaitlyn
ran her first half-marathon while studying for the bar exam and continued to
participate in more half-marathons, as well as 5Ks and 10Ks for the next few
years. She also was part of a 200-mile team relay race. But soon, her robust
running life came to a grinding halt.

A major hurdle

After
completing a half-marathon in February 2018, Kaitlyn began training for another
one — the Red, White & Boom Half-Marathon held on July 4 in Minneapolis.
But for the first time since she had taken up running, Kaitlyn started having
shin pain.

“When
my foot hit the ground, I would feel a stabbing pain in my shin. At first, I
tried to ignore it and hoped it would get better,” she says. When the pain
progressed to the point that it was limiting her walking and daily activities, Kaitlyn
got scared. “I was worried I had done real damage to my leg.”

“Dr. Payne is so extraordinarily compassionate. I felt like he knew what I was going through and could relate because he is an athlete himself.”

Kaitlyn Johnson

But her biggest fear was that doctors would tell her she couldn’t run anymore. In June 2018, she called Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine and obtained an appointment with Jeffrey Payne, M.D., a sports medicine and rehabilitation physician at Mayo Clinic Square in Minneapolis.

“Dr.
Payne is so extraordinarily compassionate. I felt like he knew what I was going
through and could relate because he is an athlete himself,” Kaitlyn says.

When she met with the Sport Medicine team, Kaitlyn did a series of walking and hopping tests to gauge where the leg pain was located. Dr. Payne discussed with her the possibility that she may be suffering from a stress reaction or stress fracture.

“Stress
reaction is the precursor to a stress fracture. It’s a chronic repetitive
injury to the bone. If you continue to load the bone, it becomes an actual
stress fracture,” Dr. Payne says. “Anyone who is doing high-impact
exercise can be at risk, especially people just beginning a running program or runners
that increase their training.”

Kaitlyn had an MRI and met with Dr. Payne afterward to discuss the results. The imaging showed swelling within and around her shinbone, or tibia, that correlated with the location of her pain.

“This
can happen for a variety of reasons, including increasing the amount of mileage
that someone is running,” Dr. Payne says. “Also, factors such as
side-to-side differences in strength and flexibility can predispose someone to
developing a stress reaction.”

A healing plan

Dr.
Payne recommended physical therapy for Kaitlyn, as well as a walking boot to
decrease the stress to the bone, so it could heal. Within a week, Kaitlyn began
physical therapy with Allison Mumbleau, D.P.T., a Mayo Clinic physical therapist
who is an avid runner and has expertise in running form.

“I
was surprised I was able to get into physical therapy so quickly and was really
relieved because my number one priority was getting better as quickly as I
could,” Kaitlyn says.

“We individualize physical therapy to see what we can do from a biomechanical standpoint to not only resolve a patient’s symptoms, but also to try and prevent injuries from happening in the future.”

Jeffrey Payne, M.D.

“Even
though she couldn’t run, we were able to initiate corrective exercises immediately.
Initially, she was working on core strength, and hip group strengthening and
flexibility for the hamstrings and calf muscles,” Dr. Payne says. “We
individualize physical therapy to see what we can do from a biomechanical
standpoint to not only resolve a patient’s symptoms, but also to try and
prevent injuries from happening in the future.”

As
her physical therapy progressed, Kaitlyn transitioned out of the boot in early
September 2018 and started running on an anti-gravity treadmill. “It
allows us to decrease the amount of weight you’re bearing when you’re running
by reducing gravitational forces on the body,” Dr. Payne says.

Once
she had done a few sessions on the anti-gravity treadmill, Allison put Kaitlyn
on a gradual plan to return to running. The cooperative nature of her care
throughout the process was key, according to Dr. Payne. “The collaboration
we have within Sports Medicine is unique,” he says. “We have many
different specialists who all work together to develop the best plan for our
patients.”

Kaitlyn’s
condition steadily improved over the next several months. “In November, I
got to the point where I was OK running for 20 minutes. So Allison and I put
together a plan for me to train for the Disney Princess Fairytale Challenge in
February,” Kaitlyn says. “I was signed up for the 10K on Saturday and
the half-marathon on Sunday.”

The
work she put in paid off. Kaitlyn was able to finish the event pain-free, which
she says was a huge milestone. “It was just like a weight was lifted off
of me. I had such anxiety about reinjuring myself and being in pain,” she
says. “After finishing the race, I felt like, ‘I can actually do this and
get back to my old self again.’ At that moment, I knew I was ready to really get
back to running.”

After
Kaitlyn completed a half-marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, in June, she decided to
sign up for the Twin Cities Marathon — the first full marathon she’d ever
attempted. “I knew I was physically ready to complete a marathon,”
she says.

A major accomplishment

On
Oct, 6, Kaitlyn ran in and finished the marathon. “It was unbelievable. I had
a bunch of friends and family cheer me on,” Kaitlyn says. “I cried
when I crossed the finish line because this is something that, for so much of
my life, I would have never dreamed I could do. And a year ago, I didn’t think
there was any way I could complete a marathon.”

Kaitlyn’s
care team at Mayo Clinic was thrilled. “We are so proud of her
accomplishment. To see her hard work and perseverance rewarded is awesome.
Kaitlyn is an inspiring person and our team at Mayo Clinic Square really
enjoyed being a part of her journey to completing her first marathon,” Dr.
Payne says. “We want to do everything possible to help someone return to
the physical activity they love as soon as possible and help them prevent
injuries that can keep them from achieving their goals.”

Kaitlyn
is already thinking about her next marathon. She’s looking at running in the
Berlin Marathon and is entering the lottery for the 2020 New York City
Marathon.

“I
could not have made a better choice in going to Mayo and been luckier to end up
with Dr. Payne and Allison,” Kaitlyn says. “They were so patient and
understanding, and focused on how to help me get back to doing what I love.”


HELPFUL LINKS

3 days ago · Rewriting the Script for Parents of Babies With Down Syndrome

For new parents of babies born with Down syndrome, the educational brochures that were at their disposal made them feel less than hopeful. Mayo Clinic's Office of Patient Education knew they could do better, so a team set about creating new materials to provide families with a more optimistic outlook.
Randi, Simon and Brian Beyerl

For new parents of babies born with Down syndrome, the educational brochures that were at their disposal made them feel less than hopeful. Mayo Clinic’s Office of Patient Education knew they could do better, so a team set about creating new materials to provide families with a more optimistic outlook.




Mallory Diercks hadn’t expected to be studying materials about babies with Down syndrome. But soon after their second child, Easton, was born, health care providers told Diercks and her husband that their son showed signs of Down syndrome. Tests later confirmed those suspicions.

As she sat in her bed at Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, Methodist Campus, learning about the new world her family had entered, Diercks was overwhelmed. “It was all negative,” she says. “It was all about what your child would not do.”

Diercks
read about potential health issues, developmental delays and never-wills.
“There was nothing that made me feel, ‘OK, I can do this,'” she says.
“I had so many fears. There was nothing uplifting in the material, and I
needed that.”

She wasn’t alone. Other parents of children with Down syndrome had similar experiences. Late last year, one of them reached out to the Mayo Clinic Office of Patient Experience. “A parent shared that she felt there was a gap in the quality of education provided to families,” says Jill Walters, a Mayo Clinic senior patient education specialist. “She felt the material she received was not sensitive or hopeful.”

When Walters reviewed the materials, she agreed. She also realized that none of the resources being given to parents had been created by Mayo Clinic. “The material looked nice,” she says. “But after reviewing the messages, I thought, ‘Oh, we could do a lot better.'”

Over
the next several months, Walters and a team that included parents created a new
printed brochure to be given to families at Mayo Clinic that better
reflects the reality of life with Down syndrome.

As
Diercks has discovered in the seven years since Easton’s birth, it’s a life
that includes both more normalcy and more joy than she ever imagined that day
in her hospital bed. “I used to think, ‘I don’t know how I would handle it
if I had a child with a disability.’ I didn’t think I could do it,” she
says. “But my greatest fear has turned into my biggest blessing. I would
take another Easton in a heartbeat.”

Offering information and reassurance

Creating
materials in response to feedback received directly from a patient was a new
experience for Walters. “I haven’t ever had that happen before,” she
says. “We’re very proactive about assessing the need for educational
materials. But this was a need we hadn’t been aware of.”

Walters
was determined to meet that need. She requested and received approval to create
new material that would provide honest information on Down syndrome. The piece
would include medical information, but Walters also wanted to provide something
else — the reassurance and hope that parents craved.

“The
tone had to be positive. It had to be optimistic,” says Mary Curtis, a
communications consultant in Mayo Clinic’s Office of Patient Education whose
job it was to write the brochure. “We needed new parents to know they
could look forward to a good and hopeful future for their children.”

“It was really a gift to be able to do this and help shape the message that’s going out to other families.”

Randi Beyerl

As
Walters and Curtis discussed their approach to the project, they decided to
involve a broad team of experts. In addition to consulting health care
providers and geneticists for the most up-to-date information on Down syndrome,
they also would include the voices of parents who had children living with the
condition.

Walters
reached out to the mother whose feedback had launched the project and asked if
she’d be willing to provide input on the new material. She also asked to be connected
to other families who might be open to helping out.

“We
reached out to nine families and received enthusiastic yeses across the
board,” Walters says. Diercks was among them. “I was elated when they
reached out to me,” Diercks says. “I think it’s wonderful that they
asked parents for input. Geneticists and doctors may have the medical
information, but they don’t really understand things in the same way that
parents do.”

Randi
Beyerl, whose son, Simon, has Down syndrome, agrees. “It was really a gift
to be able to do this and help shape the message that’s going out to other
families,” she says. “After we learned Simon would have Down
syndrome, I desperately wanted to hear from other parents. The best part of the
material I received after his diagnosis were the quotes from parents. Those are
what I focused on.”

Highlighting real families, real lives

In
addition to incorporating messages from parents in the brochure, Walters wanted
the publication to show real families living real lives. She scheduled a series
of photo shoots where Mayo Clinic photographer Paul Flessland captured images
of children with Down syndrome interacting with others at home and in the
community. Walters and Curtis directed the photo shoots and got a firsthand
look at the families’ lives.

“It
was an unbelievable experience,” Curtis says. “Sitting at my desk, it
can be easy to feel distant from our patients. This experience was a
spectacular reminder of why I choose to do what I do. Jill and I knew we had to
do right by these amazing people.”

“Easton is way more like his brothers and sister than not. He’s not that different.”

Mallory Diercks

The
photos show children with their parents, siblings and classmates. They’re
reading, shopping for groceries and sharing dessert at a restaurant. The images
are designed to convey a message to parents who have received the news that
their child has Down syndrome: Your life will not be as different as you may
fear at this moment.

“We
are a very normal family unit,” says Diercks, who has three other children.
“Yes, there are hard days. But there are hard days with all children.
Easton is way more like his brothers and sister than not. He’s not that
different.”

Randi
Beyerl also has found that to be true. “There are extra appointments, but
lots of normal,” she says. “When I hear co-workers talking about
their kids, I’m like, ‘Yep, us too.'”

For
the aspects of her son’s life that are different or difficult, Beyerl has
discovered an army of supporters. “There are lots of specialists to help
you along the way,” she says. “There is also a community of other
parents. Connecting with other families is so important and so helpful. We have
each other. We are not alone.”

Raising awareness, sharing hope

The
new patient education brochure was completed in October, coinciding with Down
Syndrome Awareness Month. But for the parents who participated in the project,
every day is an opportunity to raise awareness.

“Having
Simon has given me a fire inside for advocacy,” Beyerl says. “It is
important to my husband and I that Simon is valued for who he is and receives
services that will help him thrive.”

That’s
one reason she and other parents were grateful for the opportunity to help
develop the material and shape the conversation around Down syndrome. “I’m
thrilled Mayo is listening to families,” Diercks says. “I’m very
excited to be sharing our perspective and getting more awareness and hope out
there.”

“An awareness of the risks and challenges is important. But so is hearing about the joy and gifts your child will bring to your family.”

Randi Beyerl

Beyerl
feels the new material provides a more balanced and accurate picture to parents
who receive the news that their child has Down syndrome. “An awareness of
the risks and challenges is important,” she says. “But so is hearing
about the joy and gifts your child will bring to your family.”

Diercks
agrees. “The worst thing people say — and people still say this to me — is
‘I’m sorry,'” she says. “Don’t be sorry. We’re very thankful for
Easton. We’re truly blessed to have him.”

That’s
a message that appears front and center in the brochure, which begins with the
words new parents love to hear: “Congratulations on your new baby!”

View
a slideshow of photos included in the new brochure:




HELPFUL LINKS

6 days ago · Opening Doors for Cancer Research in Native American Communities

Mayo Clinic's 14-year partnership with Diné College has opened up opportunities for students like Corinna Sabaque to gain experience in fields where Native communities are often underrepresented and underserved. In Sabaque's case, those opportunities launched a career in cancer research.

Mayo Clinic’s 14-year partnership with Diné College has opened up opportunities for students like Corinna Sabaque to gain experience in fields where Native communities are often underrepresented and underserved. In Sabaque’s case, those opportunities launched a career in cancer research.




In the summer of 2014, Corinna Sabaque moved more than 1,000 miles from her home in the Four Corners area of New Mexico to Rochester, Minnesota, to complete a 10-week internship in breast cancer research at Mayo Clinic.

“Coming to Minnesota was hard,” Sabaque says. “I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t even know whether I wanted to do cancer research.” Despite those difficulties, Sabaque came back that fall for another internship. This time she spent seven months studying pancreatic cancer alongside Gloria Petersen, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and deputy director for Population Sciences at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

A student from Diné College, a tribal college serving the Navajo Nation, Sabaque was pursuing a four-year degree in community health. Now she works at Mayo Clinic in Rochester as a health sciences researcher, dividing her time between pancreatic cancer research and health issues among Native populations.

Mayo
Clinic’s 14-year partnership with Diné College has opened up opportunities for
students like Sabaque to gain experience in fields where Native communities
often are underrepresented and underserved. In Sabaque’s case, those
opportunities launched a career in cancer research.

“Mayo
opened a lot of doors for me to learn about cancer research, and that
experience developed my interest,” Sabaque says.

Seizing opportunities

A
$75,000 grant supplement from the National Cancer Institute is helping Mayo Clinic and Diné
College offer more Native American students like Sabaque opportunities to learn
about cancer research. In April 2018, a group of Mayo representatives and
educators, and leaders from five tribal colleges met in Shiprock, New Mexico.
For two days, they shared ideas and discussed plans for a cancer research
curriculum as part of a new four-year program in public health at Diné College
to promote diversity in cancer research.

The meeting explored cultural perspectives and priorities in cancer research. “That meeting was critical,” Dr. Gloria Petersen says. “It provided the time and space to develop culturally sensitive approaches to attract and interest a new generation of learners.”

“(Mayo Clinic) Cancer Center really has something to offer with our longstanding relationship with Native tribes and our combination of resources, experience, scientists and investigators who can inspire young people and bring them along in a career in cancer research.”

Gloria Petersen, Ph.D.

Funding
for the two-day workshop came from a supplement to Mayo Clinic Cancer Center’s
National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Center Support Grant. These supplements were
offered to cancer centers that would promote cancer opportunities to
underserved minorities.

“This was an opportunity we were not going to miss,” Dr. Gloria Petersen says of the supplement. “The Cancer Center really has something to offer with our longstanding relationship with Native tribes and our combination of resources, experience, scientists and investigators who can inspire young people and bring them along in a career in cancer research.”

Increasing involvement

With
the support of researchers at Mayo Clinic, Diné College is preparing an
application for a second grant. The grant would support the implementation of a
Cancer 101 curriculum that was developed as a result of the meeting at
Shiprock. Diné’s curriculum will reach more than 50 students enrolled in
advanced biology and public health courses annually.

The
current vision of the curriculum also includes five 10-week cancer research
internships at Mayo Clinic for Diné students. These are modeled after the
opportunities Sabaque had as a student.

“Giving
Native students the opportunity to come to Mayo Clinic would open doors for
hands-on learning experiences in laboratory and clinical projects that they
wouldn’t normally have,” Sabaque says. She credits time spent in cancer
research labs at Mayo for piquing her interest in the field.

“This
is really one step in a larger effort to help more Native students get involved
in doing this kind of research,” says Christi Patten, Ph.D., a professor of psychology in the Behavioral Health Research Program. Dr. Patten was principal
investigator on the first grant Mayo and Diné College partnered on 14 years
ago.

“These students would be doing research that comes from their community and is sensitive to their specific needs in the health care system.”

Wesley Petersen, Ph.D.

Only
about 4% of Native American and Alaskan Native populations have the advanced
degrees necessary to be principal investigators in clinical research. Raising
that number could reduce health disparities and bring valuable insights to
cancer research.

“These
students would be doing research that comes from their community and is
sensitive to their specific needs in the health care system,” says Wesley
Petersen, Ph.D., director of Native American Research Outreach at Mayo Clinic.
“By addressing research questions that are important to those patients,
we’re making steps toward improving their health.”

Dr.
Patten adds, “If we don’t have Native voices at the table, we’re missing a
whole dimension of cancer research.”

Note: A version of this story
previously was published on the
Advancing the Science
blog.


HELPFUL LINKS

Wed, Nov 6 5:00am · Arizona Family is 'Transplant Strong' for Son's Journey to Kidney Health

When Kendon Holdaway found out he would need a kidney transplant, his close-knit family rallied around him. With his mother as his living donor, and his father and siblings stepping up to be caregivers, the transplant turned into a bonding experience that drew the family even closer.

When Kendon Holdaway found out he would need a kidney transplant, his close-knit family rallied around him. With his mother as his living donor, and his father and siblings stepping up to be caregivers, the transplant turned into a bonding experience that drew the family even closer.




It’s
often said that parents will do anything for their children, and that the bond
among family members is one of the strongest that can exist. For the Holdaway
family of Chandler, Arizona, those adages came into sharp focus when Kendon
Holdaway needed a kidney transplant, and his entire family stepped up to take a
role in his care.

A long decline

Kendon’s symptoms started in 2012 when he was 14. They were subtle at first. He was sleeping a lot and generally not feeling well. His parents, Lisa and Michael Holdaway, thought Kendon had mononucleosis, so they took him see a pediatrician. Following several tests, the doctor discovered that Kendon’s kidney function wasn’t normal. A kidney biopsy and other testing revealed that Kendon didn’t have mono. He had chronic kidney disease. Although he was in the early stages of the disease, his kidney function would gradually deteriorate over time. Eventually Kendon would require a kidney transplant.

“The
nephrologist said that it was a matter of when — not if — I would need a
transplant,” Kendon recalls. “To a 14-year-old boy’s mind, it seemed
something that was far away but so real at the same time.”

The
prognosis cast a shadow over the years that followed. “Every holiday,
every big family event, it was always there in the background,” Lisa says.
“It was always a worry, and over seven years, we steadily watched Kendon’s
health decline.”

Still,
Kendon and his family did their best to live a normal life. He played soccer in
high school for several years. And after graduation in 2016, Kendon went on a
two-year mission to Arcadia, California, with his church, where he learned to
speak fluent Mandarin.

But
about a month after returning home in June 2018, Kendon’s health took a sudden
turn for the worse. “It came to a point where I couldn’t focus on
anything,” Kendon says. “When you’re nauseated all day, and you’re
sleeping 13 hours a night — and you wake up and have a few bites, and that’s
all you can eat — you really can’t see past that.”

At
one point, he had to be rushed to an emergency department due to vomiting. Following
lab work, physicians confirmed that the time had come for Kendon to have his
transplant.

An optimistic outlook

Before Kendon’s kidney function deteriorated to the point that he would need dialysis, the Holdaways decided to contact Mayo Clinic in Arizona. They wanted to start the testing process in hopes of identifying a living kidney donor for Kendon, so he could avoid being put on the transplant waiting list.

Lisa
says that her mother’s intuition told her she was meant to be Kendon’s donor. “I
felt this responsibility that it had to work out,” Lisa says. “We
didn’t have a plan B.” That intuition was spot on, and Lisa was approved
to be the donor.

“We were very calm, and we knew we were in the right place, and that things would turn out OK.”

Michael Holdaway

On the day of the transplant, Sept. 12, 2018, the family packed up early in the morning to make the hour drive from their Chandler home to Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. When they arrived, the Holdaways were told that Kendon’s transplant came just in time. A few more hours, and he would have required dialysis.

After
their 5 a.m. arrival at the hospital, the family camped out and waited, trying
to keep their nervousness at bay. When the time came for the surgeries to start,
Lisa was wheeled to the operating room first, where surgery to remove her
kidney took two hours. Kendon’s surgery came later, and he bravely signaled a
thumbs-up as they rolled him to his surgery suite. Despite being anxious, the
remaining three members of the Holdaway family were confident in the day’s
eventual outcome.

“We
were very calm, and we knew we were in the right place, and that things would
turn out OK,” Michael says. Later, the family was able to relax upon hearing
that both surgeries had gone well.

A caring family

Kendon’s
and Lisa’s recoveries quickly became a dedicated family affair. Michael and
daughters Elyse and Ashley all stepped up to fulfill caregiver duties.

Elyse,
then a junior in high school, also followed the entire journey with her father’s
camera. “We knew that we wanted to document this because it’s a huge
milestone in all of our lives,” Elyse says. “You want to be able to
go back and relive that, so we wanted to make sure that we had the camera out
and that we got everything. We got all the emotions involved with it.”

Her
video, put to music, chronicles the early morning journey to the hospital and
follows Kendon and Lisa down the winding hospital hallways as they were wheeled
into their respective surgeries. It also captures the family’s anticipation
before the procedure and the emotional reunion of Lisa and Kendon following their
surgeries, where they reunited in the postoperative area.

“Without everyone in my family, I wouldn’t have been able to focus on getting better and doing those things we needed to do to make sure the transplant happened.”

Kendon Holdaway

Once
Kendon and Lisa were back at home, the Holdaway caregivers were tasked with
making sure each medication was distributed at the correct time, to the right
person, and that the house was always in sterile condition. Although caregiving
could be a challenging job, Michael does not regret the time spent doing it,
reminiscing about the 5 a.m. drives he and Kendon took together to Mayo Clinic
Hospital every morning for Kendon’s follow-up appointments.

For
Kendon, the family’s support was invaluable. “Without everyone in my
family, I wouldn’t have been able to focus on getting better and doing those
things we needed to do to make sure the transplant happened,” Kendon says.
Ashley confirms that their family has always been close, and the way they all
came together around the transplant reinforced that. “I couldn’t be a
match for my brother, so I was glad to be there in a small way,” she says.

A time to bond

With
his health restored, Kendon’s now looking to the future. This year, he will
start college in Utah. His plans after graduation are to enter medical school
in hopes of one day being a kidney doctor. “The human body is such an
amazing thing,” Kendon says. “It has always interested me, but it was
after the transplant that I could see the amazing things that doctors can do,
and the amazing miracle that transplant is. That really gave me a passion for
it.”

“Everyone was needed. Everyone played a part in it. It was a neat thing where it bonded us as a family.”

Lisa Holdaway

Although
their transplant journey is over, it has had a lasting impact on the Holdaway
family. “How many chances do you get to spend basically six weeks
uninterrupted with your kids — especially grown kids who typically would be
away from home or off to school?” Michael asks. “It was really a
bonding time. Despite the fact that Kendon and Lisa were recovering, it was
actually a great time as a family to spend time together.”

One
small but significant way the family decided to illustrate their togetherness
during the transplant process was through matching T-shirts that they created
and wore to the Mayo Clinic Kidney Transplant Reunion in May. The shirts also
made an appearance on the family’s Christmas card.

As
Lisa reflects on the overall experience, she emphasizes the value of each
family member’s contribution. “Yes, Kendon received the kidney, and I was
able to give him my kidney, but it was a family affair,” Lisa says. “Everyone
was needed. Everyone played a part in it. It was a neat thing where it bonded
us as a family. We’re transplant strong.”


HELPFUL LINKS

Mon, Nov 4 5:00am · Comprehensive Dental Care Produces Show-Stopping Smiles

Feelings of gloom set in whenever Carys Rees-Baker and her family discussed the surgery Carys needed to fix her underbite. But the shadow lifted when Carys met a team of Mayo Clinic dental and maxillofacial specialists whose compassion assured her she would be well-cared for and the treatment well worth the effort.

Feelings of gloom set in whenever Carys Rees-Baker and her family discussed the surgery Carys needed to fix her underbite. But the shadow lifted when Carys met a team of Mayo Clinic dental and maxillofacial specialists whose compassion assured her she would be well-cared for and the treatment well worth the effort.




Sixteen-year-old
Carys Rees-Baker loves singing and performing. But two years ago, she stopped participating
in plays and musical camps. The talented teen didn’t want people to see her
prominent underbite, which caused her mouth to turn down at the sides.

Since undergoing treatment at Mayo Clinic that involved orthodontics and oral surgery, however, Carys’ self-esteem has skyrocketed. Now she’s excited to share her talents and megawatt smile with the world.

“I’m
more confident. I audition for shows all the time. I audition for solos all the
time, and before I didn’t even want to do those things,” says Carys, who
lives with her parents in Gross Pointe, Michigan. “A couple of days ago, I
auditioned for ‘Elf, the Musical.’ I just got the cast list, and I got a
leading role.”

To Carys’ mother, Margaret, the difference in her daughter since embarking on a treatment plan with Chad Rasmussen, D.D.S., in Mayo’s Department of Dental Specialties, and Jonathan Fillmore, M.D., D.M.D., in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is nothing short of extraordinary.

“It’s
been life-changing, and I don’t say that lightly,” Margaret says. “It
really has been so much more than we ever imagined.”

While Carys’ treatment, which included wearing orthodontic aligners and undergoing jaw surgery, noticeably improved the placement and health of her teeth and jaws, her medical team is quick to point out that Carys’ beauty was always evident.

“After
the surgery, when I had my conversation with the parents, I told them Carys was
always beautiful,” Dr. Rasmussen says. “It’s just that things weren’t
in the right place. The goal was to get everything in the right place. It still
looks like her, and she’s beautiful.”

Expert input eases anxiety

Carys’
family knew since elementary school that Carys would require jaw surgery to
adjust the misalignment of her lower and upper jaws. “Ever since then, it
was a dark cloud above me — something in the future that I wished I could get
rid of, but couldn’t,” Carys says.

When
she was in eighth grade, Carys and her parents discussed with an orthodontist how
Carys’ treatment plan would play out. It quickly became evident that the
process would be more involved and intense than they’d anticipated.

“Carys
cried when we left the appointment,” Margaret says. “(The
orthodontist) laid out the entire plan, and I had a pit in my stomach that
something didn’t seem right. It was very distressing. I didn’t want my daughter
to have to go through jaw surgery, and I was filled with dread for weeks.”

One
sleepless night, Margaret got out of bed and turned on her laptop. She searched
the internet for medical facilities that offered nonsurgical approaches to
correct jaw misalignment. “Mayo Clinic popped up, and I thought: ‘My
goodness! How far away is Mayo Clinic?'” Margaret says. “I Googled it,
and it said it was only 10½ hours away. I thought to myself, ‘We can definitely
drive 10½ hours to get an expert’s opinion on jaw surgery.'”

“Dr. Fillmore could see my enormous reluctance and was so patient and kind and understanding.”

Margaret Rees-Baker

Margaret called Mayo Clinic in Rochester and requested an appointment in the Department of Dental Specialties. At Carys’ first appointment with Dr. Rasmussen, they spent much of their time discussing why a nonsurgical approach actually was not in Carys’ best interest.

“I
was able to take the time to explain to them why I didn’t think correcting the
teeth alone was the best approach because of the risks involved to the teeth
that could potentially cause her to lose some of them.” Dr. Rasmussen
says. “I had time to explain what the benefit of a having the jaws in the
right place would be, not only for the function, but the added aesthetic
benefit.”

Although
surgery wasn’t the family’s preferred treatment course, the way it was
explained by Dr. Rasmussen and Dr. Fillmore provided them with peace of mind
about the process.

“Dr. Rasmussen had a way of explaining it to us that helped me understand that anything less than jaw surgery would jeopardize her losing teeth in adulthood,” Margaret says. “Dr. Fillmore could see my enormous reluctance and was so patient and kind and understanding.”

With
their major concerns about oral surgery eased, the family decided to proceed
with the treatment plan the Mayo care team had outlined. It first required
extracting Carys’ wisdom teeth and two malformed baby teeth. Next Carys’ teeth
were straightened with removable aligners, so they would come together after
surgery. Finally, jaw realignment adjusted her upper and lower jawbones.

Teamwork enhances outcome

Carys
chose to have her teeth extraction done at Mayo Clinic to gain familiarity and
comfort with the environment. And although Carys could have received orthodontics
in her hometown, it made sense for that part of the plan to take place at Mayo,
as well.

“Team
care is part of the rich history of Mayo Clinic,” Dr. Rasmussen says. “The
benefit is we can bring together the Mayo Clinic surgeons with us in the same
room to come to a consensus on the treatment sequence and plan. If you do it at
home, you visit the orthodontist and then visit the surgeon. And somehow the
surgeon and the orthodontist, who work in different practices, have to talk.
Here I have scheduled time with the surgery team. Or if I have to, I can go up
to the 12th floor and stand there until I get an answer.”

For
Carys’ orthodontics, Dr. Rasmussen recommended the Invisalign system, which entails
creation of a series of trays for patients to wear. “With Invisalign, all
of the planning is in the computer first. It makes me a series of trays all at
once, and I can give her a number of aligners and see her every two to three months.
With traditional braces, I would see patients every four weeks.”

“If jaw surgery was the best option to completely get rid of (the underbite), then I would do it, especially with Mayo Clinic because it’s such a good place, and I felt safe there.”

Carys Rees-Baker

Carys
wore the aligners throughout her freshman year of high school. As they worked
to correct the tilt that her teeth had developed to compensate for the underbite,
eating and singing became more difficult. Worse for Carys, the underbite itself
became more prominent. “My freshman year was probably the worst year of my
life,” she says.

As
the surgery date approached, Carys grew excited about the changes the operation
would bring to her life. “I was more open to surgery than my mom because I
just wanted to get rid of the underbite,” Carys says. “If jaw surgery
was the best option to completely get rid of it, then I would do it, especially
with Mayo Clinic because it’s such a good place, and I felt safe there.”

On
Aug. 8, 2018, Dr. Fillmore performed the operation to restructure Carys’ mouth.
The surgery involved bringing her upper jaw forward and moving her lower jaw back.
During the operation, Dr. Fillmore separated the upper jaw that holds the teeth
from the skull base and slid it forward. He also corrected an asymmetry that
had developed in the upper jaw. Next, Dr. Fillmore cut and separated the lower
jaw in three distinct parts and placed them in the proper positions, taking
care to protect nerves and other vital structures. Small titanium screws and
plates were used to secure the jawbones in their new positions.

“She
was a fabulous patient,” Dr. Fillmore says. “She was fairly young —
15 when we did the surgery — but she did so well. She was really mature about
it and did everything we asked her to do.”

Moving on with appreciation

The
first few days of Carys’ recovery in the hospital after surgery were difficult.
“It was hard to swallow. It was hard to breathe,” she says. “I
felt kind of claustrophobic because I was swollen and shut down. The splint
they put in your mouth makes it so you basically can’t move your jaws. I was
taking so many different medications, and they all needed to be liquid or
crushed. It was just a lot.”

The
initial surgical discomfort, however, was short-lived, Margaret says. “It
was only five days after surgery, and I said: ‘What do you think, Carys? Are
you happy that you did all of this?’ and she said with complete assurance, ‘Yes.’
She was already happy after five days.”

“The people at Mayo Clinic are unbelievable. It’s been one of the great experiences of our lives.”

Margaret Rees-Baker

Following
Carys’ discharge from the hospital, she returned home, where she had to
maintain a liquid diet for six weeks. Especially on school days, eating became
a chore. Each meal or snack needed to be followed by a saltwater rinse and
teeth brushing to protect against infection.

“We
would put a lot of different food in the blender,” says Carys, who lost 10
pounds during her recovery. “One time, my mom was like, ‘Let’s put some
meatloaf in the blender,’ and I was like, ‘No, that sounds really bad.'”
On the flip side, at one point Carys decided to treat herself to a monster
dessert and blended ice cream, cookies, milk, chocolate cake, brownies and
chocolate syrup together. “That was pretty good,” she says.

Carys Rees-Baker with Jonathan Fillmore, M.D., D.M.D., and Chad Rasmussen, D.D.S.
Carys Rees-Baker with Jonathan Fillmore, M.D., D.M.D., and Chad Rasmussen, D.D.S.

Throughout
her experience, the care Carys received from her Mayo Clinic team exceeded the
family’s every expectation. “As a mother, imagining someone changing your
daughter’s face is pretty overwhelming,” Margaret says. “But the
people at Mayo Clinic are unbelievable. It’s been one of the great experiences
of our lives.”

Exactly
one year after her surgery, on Aug. 8, Carys and Margaret returned to Mayo
Clinic, so her team could check her progress. The visit was a celebratory
event, marked with positive reports, pictures, chocolate cake and confirmation
that the family had made the right choice.

“The
jaw surgery not only medically changed everything for the better, but removed
that dark cloud over her head,” Margaret says. “It’s literally
changed her life for the better, and we are grateful beyond words.”


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Fri, Nov 1 5:00am · Vision Preserved With an Innovative Approach to Brain Surgery

When Jo-Ann Rosemont learned she had a meningioma in her head, she followed her care team's advice and had regular checkups for more than a year to make sure it wasn't growing. But after one of her local doctors insisted that she get a second opinion at Mayo Clinic, Jo-Ann ended up undergoing a unique surgery that saved her eyesight.

When Jo-Ann Rosemont learned she had a meningioma in her head, she followed her care team’s advice and had regular checkups for more than a year to make sure it wasn’t growing. But after one of her local doctors insisted that she get a second opinion at Mayo Clinic, Jo-Ann ended up undergoing a unique surgery that saved her eyesight.




Jo-Ann Rosemont knew she had a brain tumor, but she didn’t think there was much to be done about it. “It wasn’t really growing, and all the doctors said, ‘This is a wait-and-see situation,'” Jo-Ann says.

When an MRI found the meningioma that was sitting on her optic nerve, the neurologists and neurosurgeons Jo-Ann was seeing near her home in Melbourne, Florida, recommended regular monitoring, but treatment for the noncancerous tumor wasn’t necessary.

“Meningiomas are present in about 5% of the population,” says Kaisorn Chaichana, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic in Florida. “Most of them are found incidentally, as happened with Mrs. Rosemont, and most are benign.”

A more pressing concern for the elementary school counselor was the debilitating headaches she had been enduring for three years. “I was waking up with severe migraines, and it was hard to get ready in the morning and drive to work,” Jo-Ann says. “It got to the point where I had to spend the whole weekend in bed.”

None of the medications she was taking provided any relief. After talking about the migraines with her primary care doctor in Satellite Beach, Florida, during summer 2018, the physician suggested Jo-Ann get a second MRI, along with a sleep study.

That recommendation not only paved
the way for Jo-Ann to be freed from her migraines, it also led to resolution of
the meningioma, which turned out to be a much more significant threat to her
health than Jo-Ann or her local care providers had realized.

Unified care

In October 2018, when Jo-Ann was at her sleep study appointment, she received the results of the second MRI, and they were cause for concern. “This doctor strongly suggested I seek a second opinion and told me going to the Mayo Clinic was my best option,” Jo-Ann says. “He was very firm about my staying home the next day and getting an appointment as soon as possible.”

“I got to experience how thorough the communication is at Mayo. You go to one area, and they schedule everything. That alleviates so much stress.”

Jo-Ann Rosemont

Jo-Ann called Mayo Clinic and
received an appointment in the Department of Neurology. At that appointment,
she met with neurologist David
Capobianco, M.D.
, who specializes in migraines, and neurologist Julie
Hammack, M.D.
, an expert in brain tumors. Dr. Hammack felt it was important
for Jo-Ann to see an ophthalmologist to determine if the meningioma was affecting
her eyesight. Dr. Hammack referred Jo-Ann to Mayo Clinic ophthalmologist Eric
Eggenberger, D.O.
 

“I got to experience how
thorough the communication is at Mayo. You go to one area, and they schedule
everything. That alleviates so much stress,” Jo-Ann says. “I just
felt a big sense of relief because everything was seamless. Every person I
communicated with was thorough, caring and patient.”

Prompt treatment

At the appointment with Dr.
Eggenberger, Jo-Ann learned that her meningioma had gone beyond the
wait-and-see tactic. “He told me I had a right eye field defect, and that
the optic nerve was thinning because of the tumor,” Jo-Ann says.

Treatment options included the
possibility of surgery to remove the tumor or radiation to shrink it. Dr.
Eggenberger recommended consults with a radiation oncologist and a neurosurgeon.

Surgery turned out to be the best choice. When Jo-Ann had her Neurosurgery appointment with Dr. Chaichana in February, he emphasized the importance of moving forward quickly to preserve her eyesight. “Once the vision starts to be comprised, you want to do surgery right away,” he says.

“Dr. Chaichana is very
intelligent,” Jo-Ann says. “He has a very calming presence and seemed
to get my sense of humor. It helped to have a little levity, even during one of
the most serious times of my life.”

“I felt very confident that (Dr. Chaichana) would be the perfect surgeon to do this.”

Jo-Ann Rosemont

The surgeon explained to Jo-Ann that
the technique he would use to remove the tumor — a procedure called an orbitozygomatic
craniotomy — would be less invasive than a traditional approach. “Instead
of using a retractor that looks like a spatula to pull the brain up to get to
the tumor, we would take the bones around her eye out, so we could sneak around
the brain and not touch it,” Dr. Chaichana says.

That sounded good to Jo-Ann. “He
told me he could do this surgery without having to manipulate the brain,”
she says. “I felt very confident that he would be the perfect surgeon to
do this.”

Jo-Ann underwent the surgery on
Feb. 19, and the results were exactly what she and Dr. Chaichana had hoped for.
“When he got the tumor, the optic nerve popped right back into the canal.
It was healthy,” Jo-Ann says. “Had I not gone to Mayo, I would have
lost my eyesight.”

Excellent outcome

Jo-Ann went home three days after
the surgery. Within a few days, the peripheral vision she had lost was
restored. Although it’s not clear if it was related to the surgery, her
migraines also stopped. “While there is no medical explanation for this,
tumors can trigger pre-existing migraines,” Dr. Hammack says. “Migraine
is a highly variable disorder which sometimes can remit spontaneously, however.”

With the removal of the meningioma
and the disappearance of the migraines, Jo-Ann is thrilled with how everything was
resolved. “I’m grateful to my surgeon who is a skilled and kind person. I’m
grateful for the positive outcome,” Jo-Ann says. “Now that the tumor
is gone, I have nothing hanging over me. Everything at Mayo was so seamless. I
can’t say enough good things.”

Dr. Chaichana credits Mayo Clinic’s
emphasis on collaboration with serving Jo-Ann well. “Because we work as a
multidisciplinary team,” he says, “Mrs. Rosemont was able to see many
specialists who diagnosed her and quickly referred her to me for what was a
very time-sensitive surgery.”

Watch this video for more about
innovative approaches to brain surgery:


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LINKS


Wed, Oct 30 5:00am · Second Opinion Opens the Door to Lifesaving Cancer Care

LeAnn Kuper couldn't have been more surprised when she was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer and told it was incurable. Despite that shocking news, the upbeat interior designer was undeterred. LeAnn took her case to Mayo Clinic and found a determined physician who offered her a promising alternative.

LeAnn Kuper couldn’t have been more surprised when she was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer and told it was incurable. Despite that shocking news, the upbeat interior designer was undeterred. LeAnn took her case to Mayo Clinic and found a determined physician who offered her a promising alternative.




All
her life, LeAnn Kuper had been the epitome of good health. Fit and active, the interior
designer walked and sometimes ran several times a week. The wife and mother of
three adult children never needed surgery, anesthesia or any sort of
hospitalization beyond birthing her babies decades ago.

So in October 2018, LeAnn was stunned when, after developing a persistent fever and fatigue, she learned that she had colon cancer. When surgery to remove the tumor revealed that the cancer had spread throughout her abdominal cavity and was deemed medically incurable, LeAnn and her husband, Jody, immediately decided to get a second opinion.

LeAnn, who lives in Milbank, South Dakota, knew she wanted to seek that opinion at Mayo Clinic, but she wasn’t sure how to go about it. So she picked up the phone and called her cousin, Roger Hofer, M.D., a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist.

“Little
did we know that Roger worked with Dr. Grotz, and he was the doctor we needed
to see,” LeAnn says. “We are strong believers, and we believe the
Lord just paved the way for us.”

When Travis Grotz, M.D., a Mayo Clinic surgical oncologist, heard that that the only treatment LeAnn had been offered locally was palliative chemotherapy, he knew he could provide more than that.

A few days later, LeAnn and Jody drove to Mayo Clinic in Rochester and met with Dr. Grotz. He agreed that LeAnn needed chemotherapy, but he recommended an alternate treatment plan involving surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC. The plan worked. Today, there is no evidence of cancer in LeAnn’s body.

“I
definitely feel that Dr. Grotz has given me a second chance at life,” LeAnn
says. “I know there’s a chance it can come back, but it doesn’t have to. I
feel that prayers of many, the phenomenal support of my husband and family, along
with great medical care have brought me this far.”

A multiphase plan

From
her first appointment with Dr. Grotz, it was clear to LeAnn that Mayo Clinic
was where she was supposed to be. “My husband and I both needed to hear
some hope in his voice,” LeAnn says. “He had a very kind and humble
confidence about him. We trusted him immediately and had confidence in his
abilities and experience. It wasn’t that he was painting a rose-colored picture
for us, but we needed hope at that point. We all need someone who will give us
a chance.”

Based
on LeAnn’s physical evaluation, lab reports and scans, it was evident that she had
cancer cells throughout her abdomen. Despite that, she was a good candidate for
surgery. “Her being a really healthy person, her mindset, her grit and her
strength are really what helped her get through a lot of the treatment,”
Dr. Grotz says.

“I’m not a worried sort of person, and I had total confidence in my medical team.”

LeAnn Kuper

Although
patients with colon cancer that has spread outside the colon traditionally have
been told it’s a terminal condition, research shows that targeted interventions
can improve outcomes dramatically. “In people who got only chemotherapy, research
shows they do poorly,” Dr. Grotz explains. “Life expectancy is 12
months, with 24 months being the highest. Treatment with surgery and then HIPEC
chemo in the most recent studies suggest that if we can remove all the cancer
cells, people on average survive 41 months, which equates to a 40% five-year
survival.”

For
LeAnn, there was no question she’d follow the path Dr. Grotz had prescribed.
“There wasn’t a lot of gray area. It just was what it was,” she says.
“I’m not a worried sort of person, and I had total confidence in my
medical team.”

The
first phase of LeAnn’s treatment took place in Milbank and Sioux Falls, South
Dakota, so she could be closer to home. Every other week from November to
April, LeAnn received a chemotherapy infusion. When LeAnn finished 12 rounds of
infusions, she returned to Mayo Clinic for imaging.

“She
had a great response to chemotherapy and all of her tumor markers came down,”
Dr. Grotz says. The day after scans were taken, LeAnn had a laparoscopic
procedure involving video monitoring to identify where cancer cells remained in
her body. Based on findings from that procedure, Dr. Grotz decided to proceed
with surgery to remove the areas affected by the cancer.

A precision operation, encouraging recovery

On
June 3, LeAnn underwent a 10-hour surgery, during which Dr. Grotz systematically
evaluated her entire abdomen. “We looked in every nook and every cranny
and at every organ to see if there was any disease,” he says.

While
having chemotherapy before surgery significantly reduced the amount of cancer
in her body, LeAnn still had a fair amount of disease. As a result, during the
surgery her abdominal lining, or peritoneum, was stripped; her uterus and
ovaries were removed; her gallbladder was removed; and parts of her colon were taken
out.

After
all of the obvious tumors were removed, Dr. Grotz administered intraperitoneal
chemotherapy, heated to approximately 108 degrees Fahrenheit, to target any
microscopic cancer cells that may have been left behind.

“The
heat seems to help the chemotherapy penetrate the cancer better,” Dr.
Grotz says. “We know cancer is more susceptible to heat, so the heat
upregulates the stress in the cancer cells and makes them more susceptible to
chemotherapy.”

“I called her a week after she was discharged, and she was outside gardening. It was pretty amazing.”

Travis Grotz, M.D.

The
chemotherapy was circulated in LeAnn’s abdomen for 90 minutes and then drained.
After her cavity was flushed, the surgical team reconstructed her colon.

People
who undergo a procedure like LeAnn’s remain in the hospital an average of seven
to eight days. LeAnn was discharged after four. “I called her a week after
she was discharged, and she was outside gardening,” Dr. Grotz says. “It
was pretty amazing.”

Due
to the extent of the surgery, it usually takes patients between three and six
months to fully recover from the procedure. “There’s a lot of fatigue and
gastrointestinal irritability because the bowels are bathed in chemotherapy for
an hour and a half,” Dr. Grotz explains.

In
LeeAnn’s case, recovery has gone well. Although it’s only been four months
since her surgery, LeAnn, who specializes in designing and installing window
treatments, feels better than she has in a year. “I’ve gotten back to my
normal walking pace, and I started installing my shades again. I came through
without any of the side effects for the most part and not any complications,
which is huge.”

LeAnn
says there was never a doubt in her mind after she met Dr. Grotz that
everything would work out. “Things could not have gone better for me,”
she says. “Once my diagnosis was given, our path was laid out for us. We
just felt like it was pretty obvious what we should do, and there weren’t a lot
of times we had to sit and scratch our heads and make a decision. I could just
be confident that everything that could be done was being done.”


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Mon, Oct 28 5:00am · 'Trio of Angels' Provide Care and Comfort for Breast Cancer Patient

Going through a medical evaluation after being diagnosed with breast cancer was a nerve-wracking experience for Traci Miller. But members of her Mayo Clinic care team quickly stepped up to calm her worries and ease her fear.
Mary Ann McDonough, Traci Miller, Kim Dalke and Roxanne Lorans, M.D.

Going through a medical evaluation after being diagnosed with breast cancer was a nerve-wracking experience for Traci Miller. But members of her Mayo Clinic care team quickly stepped up to calm her worries and ease her fear.




It’s been said that music soothes the soul. That was certainly the case for Traci Miller when a simple song performed spontaneously by three caring staff members in the breast imaging area at Mayo Clinic in Arizona brought Traci relief from a significant case of nerves amid a cancer diagnosis.

A host of concerns

Traci, a financial counselor from El Paso, Texas, had first come to Mayo Clinic for the Executive Health Program. At that time, she also met with care providers in Women’s Health. During her appointment, Traci told her care team that she had undergone mammograms and two breast ultrasounds in El Paso. Based on the test results, she had been advised to schedule a breast biopsy. Hearing that, Traci’s Mayo physician ordered a biopsy for her.

“I was impressed with the professionalism, the speed and the holistic approach I had already experienced (at Mayo Clinic).”

Traci Miller

In
late March, Traci returned to Mayo for the biopsy. She admits that the
procedure was uncomfortable because they were taking samples from a suspicious
calcification deep in her breast.

Back home in El Paso, Traci got a call from Mayo Clinic. The news was concerning. The biopsy showed that Traci had ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, stage 0 breast cancer. Her next step would be to meet with a surgeon to discuss treatment. Her immediate plan was to return to Mayo Clinic. “I was impressed with the professionalism, the speed and the holistic approach I had already experienced,” she says.

Mayo
schedulers suggested the names of several Mayo Clinic surgeons who were
available. One who caught Traci’s attention was Richard
Gray, M.D.
, a breast cancer surgeon who is now CEO of Mayo
Clinic in Arizona. “I watched some of the YouTube videos that Dr. Gray was
part of,” Traci says. “His qualifications were off the chart, and his
reputation was incredible.”

On April 9, when Traci met with Dr. Gray to discuss surgery for the DCIS, she was impressed by his calmness and warm demeanor. When he conducted an additional exam, Dr. Gray encountered a small suspicious lump in Traci’s breast. Dr. Gray recommended she go to the Mayo Clinic Breast Clinic for an ultrasound. That ultrasound led to a breast MRI and then the need for more biopsies because the tests revealed three more areas of concern. The surgery for her DCIS was postponed at that point.

A soothing style

Traci’s fears escalated when she realized that three more areas of concern meant three more biopsies. But although she was significantly scared, those fears were destined to be short-lived, as Traci was about to meet the three care providers she now calls her angels. They were Roxanne Lorans, M.D., a physician in Radiology, and two other Radiology staff members: Kim Dalke, a nurse, and Mary Ann McDonough, a lead technologist.

As
Traci reflects on that day, she is convinced she had a panic attack. “I
was shaking. I was so scared, and tears rolled down my face,” she says,
terrified of what the new round of biopsies would find. Traci also was
concerned because she knew that the additional biopsies would result in a
longer and more uncomfortable experience.

In
the procedure room, which was darkened, Traci felt as if she would pass out. In
an effort to calm her nerves, she asked the nurses in the room to cover her
eyes with a towel. Noting Traci’s obvious fear, the staff then offered to sing
to her. Traci agreed. When asked what song she would like to hear, however, she
says the only thing that came to her mind was a song her mother sang to her as
a child: “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?”

Dalke,
Dr. Lorans and McDonough stepped up to perform. That did the trick. Traci was
finally able to relax and laugh as the trio sang. She was delighted that
McDonough even chimed in with the “barks” that are part of the
decades-old song.

“I seriously believe I could not have made it through without the amazing people at the Breast Clinic and Dr. Gray.”

Traci Miller

Easing
tension and offering patients moments of levity is important, according to Dr.
Lorans. “When patients are having a breast biopsy and they are very
anxious, we dance, we sing and we tell jokes,” she says. “The patient
needs to feel comfortable, and we try to let them know we are totally with
them.”

Dr.
Lorans also praises her colleagues, saying, “They are the most empathic
and caring group of women, with a terrific sense of humor and deep sense of
kindness.” Traci was comforted by the staff members’ thoughtfulness, as
they not only took time to sing to her, they also chatted with her about sports
when they learned she had been an accomplished basketball player.

Following
the biopsies, Traci’s treatment plan moved forward as Dr. Gray informed her she
would need surgery to treat the breast cancer.

For
the kindness she received during the difficult time of her diagnosis, Traci
feels nothing but gratitude. “Had I not gone to Mayo, I’m not sure what
would have happened,” Traci says. “I seriously believe I could not have
made it through without the amazing people at the Breast Clinic and Dr. Gray.”
She also praises the staff in Radiology, where she underwent treatment. “Every
single person was just awesome. They are the best.”


Editor’s note: It
is with great sorrow that we report the death of Kim Dalke on Aug. 10,
following her battle with leukemia. She was beloved by her colleagues and
patients, and was one of the special “angels” who helped Traci Miller
with her personal cancer journey. Dr. Lorans says: “Although Kim was
battling leukemia herself at the time that she met Traci, she continued to work
full-heartedly to ensure the comfort of others with cancer. She touched so many
lives. It was an honor to work with her. She will be dearly missed.”


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