My Dream Team at the Rush University Cancer Center

By Angela K. Walker

I’m sure you have seen the television commercials. A group of individuals describing how they came together to help an ailing individual. The commercials are a quick snapshot of the “team approach” that is in place at Rush University Medical Center.

The spots are called Rush Stories, and I have a story of my own. On Feb. 13, 2006, I was diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer. I chose to get a second opinion and selected Rush as the place where I would get it.

A close family friend had recently completed successful treatment for lymphoma at Rush so I had a frame of reference. After completing a series of steps to secure an appointment, I arrived, still with a “deer in headlights” demeanor. I waited in an unassuming room with lots of light and windows and in walks in not one, not two, not three, but five individuals.

A medical oncologist, a surgical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a nurse practitioner and a psychiatrist introduced themselves to me. Clearly, still being in a semi-state of shock, this was a bit intimidating. Many thoughts are racing through my head. I didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen next. Eventually, I would learn that they each would take the lead and answer the questions I had and even the questions I didn’t know I had.

As the days passed, my relationship with a number of my dream team members grew and flourished. My treatment lasted a full nine months; three months of chemotherapy, followed by a lumpectomy, and seven weeks of radiation. All of which were very successful.

I don’t see a few members of my dream team anymore, nor do I have the desire to: On Feb. 13, 2011, I will celebrate that infamous cancer milestone of five years of survivorship, and I would like for that to continue.

Two of them, however, I see regularly, including Dr. Melody Cobleigh, my medical oncologist and Dr. Constantine Godellas, who’s now at another hospital. We have strategically scheduled my appointments for each of them so that I see someone every six months. We each play an active role in my continued survival.

It’s often said that Michael Jordan couldn’t have been Michael without Scottie Pippen. Well the same holds true here. Each of the individuals assigned to my care needed that support system, that bench help, which allowed us to make it to the end with a championship finish.

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