When an individual receives a diagnosis of breast cancer, it can cause them to question everything that is important in their life. From family relationships and faith to finances and the chance to maximize every moment. For Brunswick resident Sandy Gooch, her diagnosis came with an additional layer of stress - and a whole lot of help from the Fitzgibbon Community Cancer Center.
“My daughter, Gina, passed away in March 2018 after her battle with ovarian cancer. Just two months later, on May 17, I found out that I had breast cancer,” said Gooch. “I didn’t cry about it or anything. I have trust in the Lord and whatever he wants for me, and I try to stay positive.”
Gooch had originally detected a lump during a self-examination at home a few short days before. After having her 3D Mammography, the radiologist worked to biopsy the lump which confirmed the diagnosis. Gooch made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy rather than a lumpectomy just a month later.
“They were going to do a lumpectomy but the doctor came back in the room and told me it was a good thing we made the decision to do the double mastectomy because I had pre-cancer in my right breast as well,” said Gooch.
Gooch began treatment at the Fitzgibbon Community Cancer Center, receiving 16 weeks of chemotherapy, with some brief pauses to heal after some complications from her surgery. Those 16 trips would have caused a significant hardship for Gooch and her family if she had had to make the trip into Columbia or Kansas City to receive care.
“I was so appreciative that I could come to Marshall. If I had had to go to the city to experience these treatments, it would have been so much more difficult. Each chemotherapy treatment was three hours each,” said Gooch. “When I got to ring the bell after my last chemotherapy treatment, I was so relieved. I was just hoping there was no more cancer.”
After the chemotherapy, additional daily trips were made to the Cancer Center for radiation therapy. In all, 30 trips for radiation plus an additional stay in the hospital after a bout with cellulitis.
“My husband, Gene, is the one who brought me. He has a part time job as a school bus driver, so having to bring me to the city for that many hours and trips would have just been so hard. I was so sick to my stomach, so driving all the time would have made things worse,” said Gooch. “My daughter works every day, so it would not have been possible for her to help that often either.”
Gooch had no hesitation when she talked about what helped her in her journey. It was the caring provided by Mark Tungesvik, M.D., William Decker, M.D. and Steven Westgate, M.D., along with the staff at the Fitzgibbon Community Cancer Center.
“I just love those nurses. They just make you feel really special. There are no unkind words, no frowns. Everyone was always smiling and talking to me. It was a very important part of my recovery,” said Gooch. “I wondered about all the people who made the trip before this center was here.”
Gooch said it is important for people to realize that there is no need to travel out of our community for the highest quality cancer care, because the doctors from Missouri Cancer Associates in Columbia come to you at the Fitzgibbon Community Cancer Center. She wants people to know that they have a choice in where to receive their care.
“If they live so close, why not come to the Fitzgibbon Community Cancer Center? My first visit was with Dr. Tungsevik in Columbia. But he comes all the way to Marshall to provide care so patients don’t have to travel. It just makes sense for people to stay here to receive their treatment,” said Gooch.
Gooch credits her faith in God, a lot of great people in her life, plus those at the Fitzgibbon Community Cancer Center for their prayers and encouragement during her journey through cancer.
“They know I love them. The Fitzgibbon Community Cancer Center is a great place to receive your care if you have to face this,” said Gooch. “I have just had a lot of support. I have had people tell me they are praying for me. The churches tell me they have me on their prayer list. I believe in the power of prayer.”
The Fitzgibbon Community Cancer Center is celebrating its tenth year of operation in October. That is 10 years of compassionate care, thousands of miles and hours reclaimed, but more importantly, thousands of lives touched.