Gloria Blommer, 67, of Woodhaven, Michigan, is a busy woman. She provides full-time day care for a 2-year-old child Monday through Friday. She helped plan the 50th reunion of her John F. Kennedy High School graduating class in Taylor. She visits the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit, where she once worked. She planned a 70th birthday party for her husband, Chuck. And every year, this stylish redhead also makes time to have her annual screening mammogram. This year, Gloria also began her breast cancer journey.
Her family was scared
“Chuck was upset and emotional about my cancer diagnosis. He said, ‘Let’s do what we have to do to kick this thing,’” said Gloria.
This strong, capable woman who’s never had to take a daily medication was now facing a disease that if left untreated would kill her. For treatment, her family thought she should go to University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor or Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit.
She knew she wouldn’t want to make that long drive repeatedly. So, Gloria asked her ultrasound technician about whom she’d recommend. Gloria learned about Beaumont breast surgeon Helen Mabry, M.D. who’s located in the Karen Wilson Smithbauer Medical Office Building at Beaumont Hospital, Trenton, where she had received her mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. Gloria was able to see Dr. Mabry immediately at this location that is only four miles from her home.
Dr. Mabry is a fellowship-trained breast surgeon on staff at Beaumont hospitals in Trenton and Dearborn. She manages her patients’ breast disease and specializes in oncoplastics. She combines plastic and reconstructive surgery techniques with breast cancer surgery to preserve the appearance of her patients’ breasts to the greatest extent possible. And, she does this without compromising the mission to control the cancer.
“I told Dr. Mabry that I’d also need her to get me well enough to attend my 50th class reunion on July 29,” Gloria recalled. “No way was I going to miss that party.”
Early-stage breast cancer treatment plan
Gloria had been told she would have a wire placed into her breast in the cancer area, which would guide Dr. Mabry to find and remove the tumor during surgery. Instead, she received a Magseed implant. A new, advanced technology for localization of impalpable breast lesions, Dr. Mabry was instrumental in bringing this simpler and more effective alternative to her patients.
There are common problems with wire localization. A quarter of all patients have cancerous tissue left behind that requires more surgery because the wire becomes dislodged between implantation to its removal during surgery. And, the wire is an infection risk since it protrudes from the skin.
In the operating room, Dr. Mabry used a special tool to accurately locate the Magseed before making an incision. This freed her to select the best surgical approach, reduce the invasiveness of the surgery and give a better cosmetic outcome to Gloria, who feels she does not need, or want, reconstructive surgery of her breast.
A Magseed, smaller than a grain of rice, registered the precise location of the tumor
Gloria’s surgery on July 6 included a lumpectomy to take away the cancer and removal of a lymph node from her armpit to check to see if it had spread beyond her breast.
Just prior to surgery, she received an injection of tracer material that helped Dr. Mabry locate Gloria’s sentinel node. She removed and sent it to the hospital’s lab for analysis. It was cancer free. The cancer hadn’t spread. This upped her chances of survival and meant no need for chemotherapy. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Once you’ve had cancer, you need an oncologist, or two
Dr. Mabry referred Gloria to Beaumont medical oncologist Mohammed Ogaily, M.D., whose office is less than a mile from her home.
"Gloria will be monitored closely by me and Dr. Mabry in the months and years to come,” said Dr. Ogaily. “She will receive physical examinations and blood testing regularly as well as have follow-up mammograms.”
He continued, “I also prescribed hormonal therapy for Gloria, which she will take every day for five years. Arimidex will help reduce her risk of recurrence as well as the risk of developing another cancer, in either breast.”
Gloria was also sent to radiation oncologist Daniel Hamstra, M.D., Ph.D., who prescribed a short course of radiation therapy. Five days a week for four weeks, Gloria drove less than 10 minutes to Southgate for this treatment.
Gloria said, “The staff at Southgate worked my radiation treatments around my baby-sitting schedule. They were so kind and accommodating, which allowed me, with help from Chuck, to look after little Aubrey throughout my cancer treatment.”
“Radiation therapy for breast cancer is almost always recommended after surgery that removes only the tumor,” said Dr. Hamstra. “Without it, there would have been a relatively high risk of cancer recurrence in Gloria’s affected breast, months or years later, because of microscopic deposits of cancer left behind after surgery. Radiation helps to destroy remaining cancer cells.”
“We carefully planned Gloria’s radiation therapy. The technicians delivered precise doses. The radiation killed as many cancer cells as possible while doing no damage to other parts of her body,” said Dr. Hamstra.
“Gloria’s prognosis looks good,” said Dr. Mabry. “To make sure this vivacious woman, and all my other patients, can continue living a full life after treatment is my passion. And, we even met Gloria’s goal of making sure she got to attend her 50th high school reunion 23 days after surgery, which not only meant a lot to her, but also to me.”
Three days before her final radiation treatment on Sept. 11, Gloria hosted 65 family and friends from near and far for Chuck’s birthday party. Chuck’s best birthday present is the knowledge that his beloved Gloria will be by his side for years to come.