Original Story from Gunnison Valley Health News
March 29, 2023
In April of 2022, Elaine Clark went in for a routine mammogram at Gunnison Valley Health that ended up saving her life. The mammogram found evidence of cancer necessitating Elaine to undergo lumpectomy surgery, and to remove three lymph nodes.
The lumps were biopsied, and Elaine was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.
This type of breast cancer refers to the fact that the cancer cells don’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors and don’t make any or too much of the HER2 protein. Triple negative breast cancer differs from other types of invasive breast cancer in that it tends to grow and spread faster, has fewer treatment options and tends to have a worse prognosis.
Elaine chose to receive her chemotherapy at the Gunnison Valley Health Cancer Center because she was already an established patient and knew the great care the team provides. Elaine has been receiving treatment for an autoimmune disease for close to two years and has developed relationships with the nurses and staff at the Cancer Center. Elaine felt fortunate to begin her cancer treatment with a care team that already knew her and with whom she was familiar.
Elaine worked with Gunnison Valley Health’s medical oncologist Dr. Paulette Blanchet to determine a treatment plan. Dr. Blanchet recommended chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She recommended four chemotherapy treatments to take place every three weeks.
Once treatment began, Elaine was complimentary on the process. Gunnison Valley Health provided Elaine with a binder and a calendar. Elaine explained how helpful the cancer calendar was, providing her with details for her laboratory tests and chemotherapy schedule.
Elaine suffers from a fear of needles and was nervous to start receiving treatment, but her fears were eased.
“Trisha remembered me from my treatments for my autoimmune disease and made sure all of the staff understood my issue with needles,” said Elaine. “The staff were amazing – going out of their way to make sure I was comfortable. I love the staff.”
Elaine was also complimentary of the rest of the oncology staff, including Dr. Blanchet. Dr. Blanchet helped Elaine avoid complications between her immune disease treatment and chemotherapy by consulting with rheumatologist.
“I felt that Dr. Blanchet was very down to earth,” said Elaine. “She answered all my questions and made my experience very positive. I felt like we were good friends by the end of my treatment.”
Elaine finished her chemotherapy treatment January 12, 2023, and then started radiation treatment which required her to travel outside of the Gunnison Valley. Elaine was able to connect with Cattlemen’s Days Tough Enough to Wear Pink who offered support during all phases of her treatment. The Tough Enough to Wear Pink team found Elaine a small, dog friendly apartment to stay in so she didn’t have to travel back and forth to Gunnison every day during her radiation treatments.
“I can’t say enough about the staff at Gunnison Valley Health,” said Elaine. “They made me comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.”