Life

Breast Cancer ‘Just a Bump in the Road’ for This Survivor

A pain in her right breast sent Jamie Marcus in for her annual mammogram two months earlier than normal. Ironically, no problems were found in the right breast, but physicians decided an ultrasound was warranted. The ultrasound showed a suspicious area in her left breast and after an immediate biopsy, she got the news. She had invasive ductal carcinoma.

(Watch now: Jamie Marcus recalls what it was like being diagnosed with breast cancer and treated at Baptist Health Lynn Cancer Institute. Video by Alcyene de Almeida Rodrigues.)

“The cancer was in my left breast, the pain was in my right breast,” she says. “I believe my body was saying to me, ‘Wake up. There’s something alien in your body.’ My cancer was not detectable by feel.”

Invasive ductal carcinoma begins in the milk ducts and spreads to nearby tissues. It is the most commonly diagnosed breast cancer, accounting for some 80 percent of breast cancer cases, according to the American Cancer Society.

The Delray Beach resident, now 65, sought care at Baptist Health Lynn Cancer Institute. “The first thing I did was walk in and say, ‘Am I going to die?’ “

Ms. Marcus married at the age of 42 and didn’t have children until she was 45. At the time of her diagnosis, her twins, Rebecca and David, were just 16 and she was envisioning missing many of their happy and important life milestones. She was quickly reassured, however, when she was told she would go to their graduations and weddings in the future.

A Team Approach

Ms. Marcus and her husband, Gary, moved to Delray Beach about six years ago from the New York City area. She knew what navigating the healthcare scene was like in New York and was surprised that the approach was very different at Lynn Cancer Institute.

 “The medical modality team took over,” she recalls. “Three or four days later my husband and I sat in a room and never had to move as one by one, the geneticist came in, my oncologist came in, the social worker came in. Everyone explained everything to us. The first thing I said to my husband was that if we were up in New York right now, we would be running from building to building in the freezing cold.”

Genetic testing at the Institute revealed no known mutations that would increase her risk for breast cancer, and there is no history of cancer in her family. Medical oncologist Jane Skelton, M.D., adds that additional testing of Ms. Marcus’s tumor helped guide treatment decisions because her Oncotype was one that would not benefit from chemotherapy.

“Early detection was key for Jamie. Her final diagnosis was a stage 1 breast cancer, meaning a small cancer with negative nodes, which puts her in a very good prognostic category,” says Dr. Skelton, who recommends a yearly screening mammogram for women age 40 and above. She also suggests speaking to your physician about starting mammograms at a younger age or ordering additional imaging tests if there is a family history of cancer or you are at higher risk for some reason.

Ms. Marcus knows she is in good hands with Dr. Skelton because of the doctor’s attention to detail and her ability to answer every question in a way that can be understood. “Dr. Skelton dots every i and crosses every t. She is very calming,” Ms. Marcus says.

Just two weeks after her diagnosis, Ms. Marcus was in an operating room. On Feb. 25, 2019, surgeon Joseph Colletta, M.D., performed a lumpectomy.

“The pain level was zero. As soon as I woke up, we went out to eat. I was so hungry,” she says with a laugh. Still the experience wasn’t without trauma. “I don’t mean to minimize it. It was surgery. I block so much of this out.”

An Alternative to Traditional Radiation Therapy

And her treatment wasn’t finished. Radiation was to follow. Ms. Marcus was given the option by radiation oncologist Rashmi Benda, M.D., of traditional radiation therapy, which would have required a daily treatment for three weeks, or CyberKnife treatment, twice a day for five days. She chose CyberKnife.

“I had not one side effect, and the techs that administered the radiation were so wonderful and calming. The first thing they asked me when I walked in was, ‘What kind of music do you like?’ “

The CyberKnife M6 with InCise2 technology used at Lynn Cancer Institute is one of only 20 in the country. Delivering a high dose of radiation, it allows for a much shorter treatment time and its accuracy spares healthy tissues. It is ideal for certain types of cancers and a particular type of patient.

Celebrating the End of Treatment

The day she rang the bell to signify the end of her treatment was the greatest day of her life, next to the day she gave birth to her children, she says. Her husband, who was “tethered to her side” throughout her cancer journey, recorded the event.

“The entire staff from Radiology was there, from the people who answer the phones, to the nurses to the doctors who were working. Everyone was cheering and I got a certificate.”

Today, cancer-free, Ms. Marcus remains on the oral medication tamoxifen, a hormone therapy that reduces the risk of recurrence. She will be followed by Dr. Skelton for at least five years.

Even before her diagnosis, Ms. Marcus was on top of her health. She consulted with a nutritionist, took supplements based on her blood work and exercised ― a routine she sticks with. She is considering taking up golf, a sport her husband enjoys daily.

She encourages all women to go for their annual mammogram, to check their breasts regularly in the shower and to have a positive outlook. Her close friends served as her support group “I’m human. I still worry about cancer, but my breast cancer does not define me,” she adds.

A parting thought Dr. Colletta left her with after one appointment has become her mantra. “I must have looked terrified because he came over, put his hand on my knee and said, ‘You are going to be fine. This is just a bump in the road. That’s all it is.’ ”

Ms. Marcus painted a tile for the Wall of Hope at Lynn Cancer Institute. It reads, “Just a bump in the road.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 13 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.