The Right Choice
Nestled in the mountains of North Georgia, Dana Thiele did not notice the bustle of the holiday season during the winter of 2004. Empty boxes collected in the corner as she and her husband, Jim, settled in to their quiet mountain home. Their recent move had disrupted much of her routine, but that did not stop her from performing monthly breast self-exams.
"What is this?" she wondered as her fingertips felt something. "Less than three months ago, my mammogram was clear." Dana quickly made an appointment with a breast specialist in nearby North Carolina to examine what she thought was a cyst. When the results did not look good, her specialist asked to perform an immediate biopsy.
Dana returned home, but the peaceful quiet of the mountains did nothing to relieve her worry. A few days later, she returned for the biopsy results. The devastating words, "You have breast cancer," rang out in the doctor's office. She maintained her composure until she saw the concerned look on her friend’s face and burst into tears. "You just never think it is going to happen to you," she cried. "I was devastated and shocked."
"Do your homework!" Dana heard. "Don't just go to anyone for your treatment." She began researching various places treating breast cancer. She compared the different centers by their specialized equipment, philosophy of care and national rating. MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando continued to rise to the top. "The more I read, the more I liked," she says.
Dana placed a call to MD Anderson - Orlando. "I know I sounded desperate," she describes. She was quickly directed to nurse Rita Mahaffey, RN. "I was drawn to Rita," she shares. Rita arranged appointments with a surgeon, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist. A week later, Dana met with them all. When she met with surgeon Alberto Padron, MD, he explained that for her, both a lumpectomy and a mastectomy would have the same results.
So on February 18, 2005, Dr. Padron performed a lumpectomy removing the Stage I cancerous mass. "I am very pleased with my decision," she shares. Nikita Shah, MD, medical oncologist, guided Dana's first chemotherapy treatments. "I opted to have the next three treatments closer to home, but it was not the same." Dana missed the atmosphere and compassion of MD Anderson - Orlando.
Dana returned in June for thirty-three radiation treatments from Daniel Buchholz, MD, radiation oncologist, requiring a several month stay. After twenty-three treatments, she talked of the wonderful people she had met. "I am going to miss the women who have done my treatments," she said of Ursula, Denise and Mary, radiation therapists. "They are upbeat, kind and we have become friends," she explains.
"Being at MD Anderson - Orlando and going through treatment has given me a different perspective on life and how to better use my time here," Dana offers. "I feel so grateful for this experience. I was meant to be here." She often winds along the path of the labyrinth at MD Anderson - Orlando, a replica of the labyrinth in the cathedral at Notre Dame in France, to be alone with God and pray. "I have prayed and believed for my own healing, so now I pray for people I have met."
After walking the labyrinth, Dana returns to the Hubbard House, her home away from home during her radiation treatments. "I can always come here; this is home," she explains. "The best times are after dinner, when we clean-up, tell jokes and laugh. It is an encouragement to us all. Staying with others who understand what you are going through is a blessing."
"When I began my search for cancer treatment, I was looking for competency and compassion; MD Anderson - Orlando definitely has those qualities. It was everything I expected and more," Dana concludes with her gentle smile lighting her face.