Plastic Surgeon Expands Efforts to Help Breast Cancer Patients

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Dr. David Whiteman sees’ how his patients with breast cancer suffer so he decided to do more than just reconstruct their surgically removed breasts.

Four years ago; Whiteman began introducing patients to one another in kind of a one-on-one support system at his office, The patients have met in his exams rooms to see what they have to expect during and after the surgery or talk over the phone.

Discussions went much deeper than just the plastic surgery. They talk about their experience with breast cancer, from diagnosis to chemotherapy, and their doctors. But this network of breast cancer patients — the Breast Cancer Survivors Information Network — has grown into another movement.

Both Whiteman and these patients want to do more; they want to reach out to women who have just been diagnosed by giving them a breast cancer handbook.

“The area is growing so rapidly but our ability get information to the patients is lagging behind,” Whiteman said. Patients need to know more Information is vital when you are first diagnosed with breast cancer.

“When you are first told, you just go on overload,” said local resident Gail Toelle, 65, who wears a bandanna around her head to decorate the effects of her recent chemotherapy.

Another patient, Cindy Overton, 42, recalled, ‘You are just told where to go and what to do next. You don’t have any ownership.”

Talking to other patients later helped Toelle and Overton but they wanted something more and something sooner to answer their questions.

Cindy Snyder director of breast health services at the local medical center follows up on the approximate 17 annual patients diagnosed with breast cancer and has witnessed the effect of a diagnosis. “It’s hard to hear that word, ‘cancer,’” Snyder said. “Whatever they hear after that word, they may not hear.”

One patient told Snyder that she woke up at 3 a.m., remembering a question about breast cancer that she wished she had asked. Snyder hears similar incidents from other patients.

Book answers questions

If every patient had the network’s “Your Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook,” by registered nurse Judy Kneece, patients and health professionals alike agree that the book would help. “It gives them the information they need at the time when they need it,” Snyder said.

Whiteman has just sent out letters last week, asking for $25 donations for each of the 200 books he wants to purchase for the newly diagnosed. The donation will allow donors to dedicate the book in honor of someone who had breast cancer on the bookplate inside the front cover. The books will be a part of the hospital Foundation’s breast cancer resource library.

Campaign expands breast cancer services

The Foundation has already raised $540,000 of it $2 million campaign to expand breast cancer services according to John Riddle, the Foundation’s executive director.

The first $400,000 paid for a screening mammograph center to decrease the three month wait for routine mammograms. The remaining $140,000 will go toward the $800,001 second phase of the campaign, That phase includes a resource library and an expanded center for diagnostic mammography.

“That’s where these books will be made available,” Riddle said. For more information about Breast Cancer Survivor Information Network or their book drive, call (770) 622-9100.