Pink Not Just A Color

Pink not just a color: Options abound for breast cancer patients in Garden City and the area

On Monday, 350 people wearing pink shirts and hard hats came together at the construction site for the Meadowlark Dairy Nutrition plant in Garden City to form a giant pink ribbon in recognition of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Heather Wright-Renick, nurse navigator and breast program director at The Breast Center at St. Catherine Hospital, said awareness efforts have had an impact. She said the center does more mammograms in October than in any of the other 11 months of the year.

That said, Renick said it’s important to be aware year round and to continue to do self exams, know your family history and consult with your health care professional.

“Breast cancer isn’t just in October. We do this 24-7, 365. It just happens to be that the world acknowledges breast cancer in October, so there’s a lot of pink,” she said. “Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re old or young, male or female -- what job you have.”

Awareness of family history

Jetmore native Evelyn Hertel, 77, learned she had breast cancer in February, after going to see a doctor about a painful, swollen arm. Given her family’s cancer history -- her late mother suffered from a variety of cancers, her sister died of colon cancer, and another sister had lung cancer that is in remission -- Hertel has been regular about getting mammograms.

Her last one, in September 2015, did not indicate anything unusual. After a hysterectomy several years ago, doctors did find cells they thought might be pre-cancerous. So Hertel was somewhat shocked by the breast cancer diagnosis because she doesn’t drink or smoke, and she exercised pretty regularly. But thinking about it, Hertel said she probably shouldn’t have been that shocked, given her history.

“I think I’ve accepted it really well, but I’m not through with my treatment or anything, so I don’t know how things are going to go. I’m just hoping for the best,” she said.

Hertel is a retired school cook who said she also worked a few other jobs in Jetmore, including in the city clerk’s office and grocery store. She and her husband, Dean, have three sons, one of whom has passed away, and seven grandchildren.

Hertel’s treatment started with consultation in Garden City with Dr. Anis Toumeh, followed by chemotherapy treatments in Dodge City. After finishing chemo, she began seeing doctors at the Breast Center in Garden City, and had her right breast removed on Aug. 30. She will be starting radiation treatments in Garden City in a couple of weeks -- a total of 30 over six weeks.

Hertel has been working with Tammy Davis, a certified lymphedema therapist, at St. Catherine. The pain in her arm has gone away, though she still needs to wear a pressure sleeve and glove.

Initial chemo treatments made her sick to her stomach, but overall, she feels lucky about how her treatments have gone. She recommends getting treated in Garden City.

“The people who treated me have treated me really nice, and I got along really good. They know me. They treat you real nice in Garden City, and I would recommend going there if you have cancer,” she said.

Local treatment options

Garden City has several health care options available for cancer and breast cancer patients across the area, which allow people to stay closer to home rather than traveling to larger places like Wichita, Kansas City or Denver.

Heartland Cancer Center, 410 E. Spruce St., a partnership between Centura Health, St. Catherine and Central Care Cancer Center, celebrated a facility expansion in April and now has more than 35,000 square feet of space offering state-of-the-art cancer diagnosis and treatment services to the region.

The center also provides financial counseling, chaplain services and dietary services to help patients with more than just specific cancer care.

With the expansion came the addition of state of the art oncological equipment, including a linear accelerator, a radiation treatment that delivers precise, targeted treatment of tumors, and a PET/CT scanner that allows for diagnostic accuracy.

The center is part of MCA, the Midwest Cancer Alliance, which allows patients to take part in clinical trials without incurring the cost of travel. They can be seen by University of Kansas medical specialists via television conference.

The center also is accredited for breast cancer treatment.

Services at the Breast Center, located in the Legacy House, 309 E. Walnut St., include digital mammography; ultrasound; breast MRI; stereotactic needle biopsy, genetic evaluation, testing and management; lumpectomy; mastectomy; lymph node biopsy and surgery; plastic surgery; oncology consultation and treatment at Heartland Cancer Center; lymphedema evaluation and treatment; patient education and support group; smoking-cessation guidance; access to wigs and prostheses; and evaluation and management of benign breast disease.

Scott Taylor, St. Catherine president and CEO, said an accredited breast center coordinates all the services a patient might need, placing the patient and their family first. He said the accreditation provides assurance that the center has gone the extra mile to meet the highest safety and quality standards in the industry.

“We could have easily had another ‘me too’ center, but we felt that western Kansas deserved a center they could place their trust in,” Taylor said. “Bigger cities aren’t better -- they are just bigger, harder to get to and less personal. Do your research -- any patient of our center will tell you there is truly a difference.”

Wright-Renick agreed that having quality services close to home is a huge benefit, both as a care giver and a breast cancer survivor herself.

“We all deserve that comprehensive breast care close to home. To be able to be here in our home environment means a lot. It also helps reduce the financial burden, it helps reduce the stress level, because you have you’re family and friend’s support.”

The Breast Center, which opened in 2013 and was accredited in 2014, serves 22 counties in western Kansas and has seen clients from Oklahoma and Texas, as well as from near the Nebraska state line and the Wichita area, Wright-Renick said.

Dr. Toumeh started in February as medical director of the breast program. In addition to Wright-Renick, Lisa Beggs is another nurse navigator.

The Shift Center, 633 Briar Hill Drive, is an independent health care provider that specializes in a holistic approach to wellness and quality of life for cancer clients.

“We work more with quality of life during and after treatment,” Kriz Retsema, BCTMB, a certified massage and bodywork specialist and the Shift Center’s owner.

“Quality of life care is really important because it’s a stressful time. Our job is to help improve quality of life, and with our background, we can help them recognize things they may need to see their doctor about,” Retsema said.

Retsema, who has worked with oncology clients for more than 14 years, said The Shift Center opened in April 2010 and serves clients from throughout western Kansas and some from Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado.

The Shift Center services include lymphedema treatment, education and management; massage therapies, including lymphatic massage that can be useful in cases of edema and post surgical mastectomy care; CranioSacral Therapy (CST), a gentle hands-on bodywork method that improves immune function and relaxation response that calms general pain, anxiety and the system as a whole; and acupressure and meditation among others.

During a mastectomy, women often have lymph nodes removed and can develop a side effect, a chronic issue called lymphedema, which is a painful swelling of the arm, Retsema said.

“One of the best things for post-sentinel node removal is to learn how to do manual self-therapy, and we teach that. We treat and teach,” she said.

Another service is Reiki, a non-invasive energy practice that promotes balance and well-being. light touch of the practitioner’s hands on or slightly above the client’s body, with intent to realign and strengthen the flow of energy, tamp down on fight or flight response, and promote a calm or restorative response to decrease pain or muscle tension, speed healing, and enhance the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

They also offer a Yoga for Survivors class, which is a specific type of yoga for women undergoing treatment or who have had treatment. The class is free to all cancer survivors.

“Awareness of those modalities helps women realize there’s more out there that’s helpful than just the treatment, which even though it’s helpful, it’s not a fun thing,” Retsema said.

While the Shift Center is not affiliated with the hospital, Retsema does work with community health care providers on patient support.

Lymphedema treatment at the Shift Center is covered by most insurance, but not their other services. Retsema said the Shift Center wants to make treatment as affordable as possible, so they offer cancer survivors a 33 percent discount on ongoing services after an initial treatment at regular price.

More information about The Shift Center’s services is available at

Dealing with diagnosis

Wright-Renick said she knows first-hand the emotional impact and fear of dealing with a cancer diagnosis, especially being married with children.

“Breast cancer doesn’t just affect the person diagnosed, it affects everybody,” she said.

Then there’s the financial burden. Wright-Renick said she is lucky she has insurance, but insurance doesn’t cover all the costs of treatment. She also had a thousand questions that popped up as she went along.

“I’m a trained health care provider, and I still had so many questions that I didn’t know. That’s why it’s important for us to be able to, as navigators, to be able to help our patients,” she said.

While friends and family are great support, Wright-Renick said it’s also good to be able to talk to others going through the same thing.

St. Catherine offers a breast cancer support group, Breast Friends, which connects breast cancer patients with a network of resources, as well as others in the community going through the same experience. It meets at 6 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month at the Legacy House. Participants may be at any stage in their breast cancer experience, from newly diagnosed to survivorship.

One thing that’s better today in cancer treatment than in the past is the number of diagnostic tools available designed to catch and treat breast cancer early, including mammograms, MRI, ultrasound, and a nationwide program for breast and cervical detection.

“How lucky are we that we can find it early. Not all cancers have that,” she said.

And technology is improving all the time. Wright-Renick said they have moved from analog to digital mammograms and are moving into 3-D mammogram imaging, so it’s important to take advantage of those resources -- get those breast exams, talk to health care providers, get mammograms if it’s time, and know your family history.

Last week’s pink hard hat event also will benefit the effort to improve local diagnostic tools. Organizers of the event donated $30,000 to the Breast Center, to be used toward the purchase of a digital breast tomosynthesis mammography machine, which creates a three-dimensional image of the breast and costs between $400,000 and $500,000.

Wright-Renick indicated it’s another example of the benefit of breast cancer awareness.

“One of the best compliments I’ve heard since the program started is they said they’ve heard the word ‘breast’ more than ever before. And that’s great. That means we’re talking about it,” she said. “Women used to be ashamed of it. We used to not talk about it. Now we’re talking about it. If that leads to finding one cancer early and giving somebody a good prognosis, then it’s all worth it.”


  • Article from The Garden City Telegram

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