Patient Stories at NCH

Sandra's Story

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Striking Out Cancer

Sandra Goff enjoyed playing with her five grandchildren and coaching a women's after-work softball team in the northwest suburbs. But when Goff felt a lump in her breast in late 2012, she was nervous. Sandra immediately turned to the Breast Center at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.

Sandra took advantage of the Breast Center's short wait time and scheduled a mammogram and ultrasound, which confirmed the dire news she was hoping was not true. Sandra was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. It was the beginning of a long and challenging road to recovery.

Sandra, who juggled full-time work, coaching and family life in her busy schedule, knew she was in for a major battle. She turned to the staff at the Breast Center for guidance, support and knowledge so she could attack the cancer.

"I was scared when they found my lump and I didn't really want to tell my family," Sandra recalls. "But the team at Northwest Community Hospital was very proactive and did a great job in educating me about what I was facing."

While Sandra was beginning to understand the severity of her diagnosis, physicians Ronald Shade, MD, Stephen Nigh, MD, and Lorraine Novas, MD, were already charting a course of treatment at NCH.

Sandra underwent upfront chemotherapy, followed by a mastectomy and immediate tissue expander reconstruction at NCH. Following the operation, Sandra underwent 3-D conformal external beam radiation.

"My doctors at NCH made sure I had every detail taken care of," Sandra says. "At the time I was reviewing my X-rays, the doctors had already scheduled a biopsy for the next morning. They guided me through every step of the way."

Dr. Stephen Nigh treated Sandra over six weeks with 3-D conformal radiation in which the beams of radiation used in treatment are shaped to match the tumor and limit the dose to the surrounding normal tissues.

Dr. Nigh says the teamwork among doctors always plays a big role in treating cancer. "A lot of coordination has to happen between each of the doctors and their office staff to achieve optimal results," Dr. Nigh says. "Every step is important in the treatment."

After the diagnosis, Sandra met weekly with an NCH breast patient navigator who coordinated her care and treatment scheduling and provided support to her family. The patient navigator helped Sandra understand the diagnosis and treatment options and provided information about services and resources along the way.

"I received treatment after treatment and I always received individualized attention from the doctors and staff at NCH," Sandra says. "I feel lucky."

Sandra has completed radiation and continues with follow-up visits at NCH. Her prognosis is good and she is back to enjoying time on the baseball diamond and playing with her grandchildren.

In August, she was recognized as a cancer survivor during NCH's Cancer Survivor Night before the Schaumburg Boomers baseball game. Sandra even showed off her throwing arm before the crowd when she tossed the ceremonial first pitch to a Boomers catcher. The pitch was a perfect strike.

"I didn't know if my throw was going to make it to home plate, but it felt like old times on the softball field," she says. "It felt great to be out on the baseball field celebrating cancer survivorship."