As the holidays approached in 2009, Joyce Bryant, regional director of Pre-Access for Adventist Midwest Health, attended a meeting for work at Westmont Imaging Center. When she mentioned she was overdue for a mammogram, employees at the center immediately brought her to be tested.
“As soon as I mentioned that it had been a while since my last mammogram, I was ushered into the room right then and there,” said the 54-year-old Naperville resident. “The staff at the imaging center demonstrated that they are focused on early breast cancer detection. Though I never had breast cancer symptoms, early detection most certainly saved my life.”
After reviewing the results of her scans, Bryant went to DuPage Imaging Center for a diagnostic mammogram. The nurse navigator told her she needed to have a biopsy immediately. By early January, she learned she had breast cancer at the cellular level. Bryant saw Dr. Jason Goliath, a general surgeon who treats patients at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, for a consultation.
“Normally Dr. Goliath orders patients with a similar diagnosis to get a regular chest CT scan,” Bryant said. “However, I told him that my family has a history of colon cancer, and he wanted to have a CT scan of my entire abdomen.”
“It’s important for doctors to completely listen to their patients and all of their questions,” said Goliath. “I wanted to do everything I could to address Joyce’s concerns.”
When Bryant’s test results came back, Goliath told her she also had a two-inch tumor in her kidneys, indicating an extremely early form of renal cancer. Because most early kidney cancers do not cause any signs or symptoms, they can go without detection. Many people are not diagnosed until they have extreme discomfort due to the cancer’s size, but Bryant’s was caught early.
“I really credit him for discovering the renal cancer when he did,” Bryant said. “Dr. Goliath was able to detect my cancer extremely early because he listens to his patients and he really listened to me.”
Bryant was referred to Dr. Michael Milani, a urologist who treats patients at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, to have the tumor surgically removed. On Jan. 20, Milani performed a partial nephrectomy – a surgical procedure in which a kidney is partially removed. The surgery was completed with the hospital’s da Vinci robot, a minimally invasive surgical tool that can result in faster recovery with less pain and scarring.
“I had the surgery on Wednesday and was discharged Saturday,” Bryant said. “My recovery time was much shorter than a regular nephrectomy.”
Less than 10 days after her surgery, Bryant went to Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital for a lumpectomy, a surgical procedure that removes a malignant tumor or lump and a small portion of the surrounding breast tissue. She missed just six days of work through all of her treatment, surgeries and seven weeks of radiation.
“While I could have just stayed home and felt miserable, I knew it was important for me to remain active and positive if I wanted to get through everything the best way possible,” Bryant said.
Though the cancer was removed from Bryant’s breast and kidney, she still must receive frequent check-ups to make sure the cancer has not returned. She said working in the Pre-Access department of Adventist Midwest Health not only gave her something to focus on while enduring the treatment, but it also allowed her to empathize with the patients she speaks to on the phone every day.
“I’m lucky to work with an incredibly supportive and understanding team,” she said.