Diane Gingerich knows firsthand how breast cancer patients at Medical City feel. Not only is she a registered nurse and an employee, but she's a survivor too. Diane has been getting routine mammograms for years, but in November 2011 she was called back in for an ultrasound and then a core needle biopsy.
"You hear those words you never want to hear," she said, describing the moment she was told the small tumor was malignant and the cancer was aggressive. "This especially hit home having watched my sister die of breast cancer at the age of 52 after a 10-year battle."
The 65-year-old wife, mother and grandmother also watched her mother deal with being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 81. But Diane relied on her faith and stated "I'm going to be positive. I'm going to whip this thing and help others."
The first step was a lumpectomy, and then targeted radiation followed by chemotherapy. Diane knew right away she wouldn't let anyone but Dr. Alison Laidley, Medical City's Breast Center Medical Director, perform the surgery.
"She's so sensitive and encouraging, and was genuinely concerned about me," Diane said. "Dr. Laidley is just a fantastic surgeon. She not only cares just about removing all the cancer, but how it looks aesthetically." Diane says you can't even tell she had the procedure and considers herself lucky that the cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes.
"The whole thing is so overwhelming to your brain. At each step they give you only the information you need to know and can handle. Medical City has such a great team, from Dr. Brooks, my medical oncologist, all the way through to Jan Tichenor, the breast care navigator," she explained. "It's not an experience I want to go through again, but they treated me like a person, not just a number coming through."
Diane also calls the Medical City Cancer Resource Center "a godsend," giving her wigs, teaching her how to tie headscarves, all of the tricks of the trade to get through chemo. She also met a lot of people in the support group who had a lot tougher situations than she did, and making her feel blessed and inspiring her to pay it forward.
"It's still tough. I have an excellent prognosis, but it's always in the back of your mind that it could come back at any time," she added. "You just have to have support. I want to be there for women who don't have that. They're scared."
Just four months after chemotherapy, Diane was part of the hospital's team, "Laidley's Ladies and Gentlemen" in the Dallas Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure alongside her husband and daughter, other patients, families and staff members. She also volunteers every year at the cancer survivor's picnic, started the Basket of Hope by giving baskets of toys for kids with cancer, and gets involved where ever else she can.
"Strangers will come up to you and say I'm a survivor too. You talk to them and encourage them," Diane said. "They've come so far with treatment; it's not a death sentence anymore."