Carla Mancini, RN, Manager, Oncology Research EMMC Cancer Care with Terry White.
Terry White longs for the day that she can return to the sandy shores of Myrtle Beach to feel the warm Carolina sunshine on her face and the ocean waves splashing upon her feet. She has plans to go back to visit family and won’t let cancer slow her down. “My journey is not over just because I have this disease,” Terry said. “It doesn’t mean life doesn’t go on. I definitely have a lot of life to live.”
“I went from being a survivor to a lifer because I live with cancer every day, and I’ll live with it every day until the end. My journey is not over just because I have this disease, it doesn’t mean life doesn’t go on. I definitely have a lot of life to live.”
- Terry White
Terry was diagnosed with breast cancer a decade ago. “I was 38 when I found a lump in my breast in the shower one morning and immediately called my primary care physician.” Unfortunately, the cancer became metastatic, meaning it spread to other parts of her body. “I went from being a survivor to a lifer because I live with cancer every day, and I’ll live with it every day until the end,” she said. Terry has gone through several treatments of radiation and chemotherapy over the years.
During a recent visit to EMMC Cancer Care at the Lafayette Family Cancer Center in Brewer, she was comfortably dressed in jeans and a maroon blouse, and wore a hat on her head. Because the cancer spread to the bone marrow in her leg, she wore a knee brace to alleviate pain. What’s remarkable about Terry is how she projects a positive attitude. A powerful storm that day was toppling trees and knocking down power lines outside—it wasn’t enough to stop her from making the 30-minute ride to the treatment center from her home in Pittsfield or to diminish her optimism. “Research today has given us treatments that are light years ahead of what we used to have,” she said.
Terry is hopeful because she is taking part in a clinical trial thanks to a collaborative partnership between Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and EMMC Cancer Care. She is taking an experimental drug under the coordinated care of her medical team in Brewer and the Dana-Farber specialists in Boston. “The treatment I come for is administered by a syringe. I don’t have to sit there for four hours waiting for this to be over and waiting for the side effects,” she said.
Eric Winer, MD, is chief clinical strategy officer at Dana-Farber and director of the Breast Oncology Center. He and other members of the Dana-Farber team visited EMMC Cancer Care last fall for a tour. “Dana-Farber only partners with cancer centers that already deliver excellent care,” Dr. Winer said. The goal of the collaborative for Dana-Farber is to extend its reach and bring clinical trials to people living in rural areas. “When people participate in clinical trials, the hope is that they will do better than they might with standard care, but no matter what, they are contributing to the future of cancer care,” he said.
The staff at EMMC Cancer Care also benefits by being in the collaborative. They have more educational opportunities and access to medical specialists at Dana-Farber for rapid consultation on complex cases. “Dana-Farber clinical care is provided in Boston and this collaborative brings their expertise to the heart of Maine,” explained Thomas Openshaw, MD, medical director, Oncology Research at EMMC Cancer Care. The staff at EMMC and Dana-Farber have a firm resolve to help not only current patients, but also future patients to live better lives. “Our whole goal is to try to cure whatever patients can be cured, and that’s a large proportion of patients, and for the others to give them the best and the longest life that they can have,” Dr. Winer said.
That seems to be working for Terry White, who’s already making travel plans to Myrtle Beach. “It gives you a reason to go through what you’re going through. We’ve got to learn from it for the future,” she said, adding, “I want to be healthy for my family, I want to participate in life with my family and my friends, and continue to enjoy life.”