By Muriel J. Smith
For all of you who followed my five part series on breast cancer, cryoablation, and the trial that may well reduce surgeries for some women, it has been six months since I had the simple procedure which consisted of a radiologist inserting a frozen needle into my breast and killing the cancer that was sitting there.
Although the oncologist, the radiologist, and most of all me, all knew the cancer was long gone, it’s part of the trial procedure to have a mammography six months after to be scientifically sure. Also as part of the trial, I would meet with the oncologist who had given me the option of having her perform surgery or the radiologist eliminating cancer with the needle.
The mammography, of course, went spectacular and the radiologist, Dr. Ken Tomkovich, was there to read the results immediately and assure me that everything looked exactly as he expected it to. Two days later, when I got the ‘official’ letter in the mail from Centra State Medical Center, it was kind of thrilling to see, in print, that the results of the screening were “normal/benign/no cancer.”
Then this week was the meeting with the surgical oncologist who had given me the option in the first place.
Dr. Mary Martucci, who is also director of the Women’s Center at Centra State that is so wonderful, and where the procedure was done Feb. 2, 2016, is a pretty incredible woman, a most unique physician, and a surgeon with a reputation for being about as fine as you can get.
The Women’s Center at Centra State does things right. Diana, Dr. Martucci’s medical assistant, came out to the cozy waiting room to hug me, welcome me, and say how happy she was for my diagnosis. She handed me the soft, cotton, heated gown to don for the examination as we walked to the examining room, and told me she would bring Dr. Martucci right in.
Two minutes later, Dr. Martucci walked in the room, gave me a hug, a huge smile, and shared joy in my “cancer free” diagnosis. But then, instead of simply going about her professional duties and obligations of giving me a breast exam, she invited me to sit and chat for a while. She wanted to know how I felt, what I was doing, if there were any changes in my life, any changes because of the procedure. In short, she wanted to make me relax and feel comfortable. The time went quickly…far quicker than I would have imagined, and she nodded with satisfaction when her examination was complete. It wasn’t until I was back outside that I realized this very busy, but very efficient surgeon had just spent a solid hour chatting with me and making me think I was the only person in the world!
I’m a long way from being a feminist, and I don’t scare easily. But now that’s it all over, and I only go back for annual examinations from here on in, I realized how vital a female physician is to a woman at this particular time. Dr. Martucci has the intuition to know when a brusque, outgoing, ok, occasionally obstreperous person like myself needs a soft voice, gentle understanding. Dr. Martucci has the self-confidence to explain every option open to a woman with breast cancer. She makes it obvious she isn’t thinking of how cryoablation could impact her own pocketbook by cutting back on surgeries; she is only thinking of what is best for the frightened woman faced with making a life-changing decision. Had she not explained both options, given me her opinion, let me make my own choice based on education and explanations, I never would have had the very simple procedure that didn’t even keep me from my luncheon date with friends, much less planned European travel a short time after. And she quickly convinced me that annual mammograms are an important part of every woman’s life!