Coordinated Health

Choosing Her Own Path to Recovery – Breast Cancer

By: Hannah Ropp   October 29, 2019
When 58-year-old Patti Keegan began having pain in her left breast she wasn’t concerned. She had been diagnosed with a cyst a few years before and assumed that her pain was somehow related to the cyst. However, when the pain persisted she had an ultrasound and got devastating news. Her cyst had developed into breast cancer. Faced with treatment options that ranged from chemo to radiation she sought out the help of a doctor that would help her heal – her way. 

When Patti Keegan was told that she had stage two breast cancer she says she immediately kicked into high gear. “I just wanted to get started right away doing what I knew I needed to do to get better,” she says. However, she had some strong opinions when it came to her treatment. She specifically didn’t want radiation, chemo or hormone replacement therapy, some of which Coordinated Health Breast Surgeon Cara Guilfoyle, M.D. recommended. 

Patti was familiar with some of the treatment options that Dr. Guilfoyle suggested because her husband went through chemotherapy and radiation when he battled colon cancer in 2004. Although he is currently in remission, she says that the chemo and radiation caused long-term physical disabilities that left him unable to work. She wanted to avoid a similar situation so she began to research alternative treatment options. 

When Patti told Dr. Guilfoyle that she wanted to forgo her recommendation of radiation and a lumpectomy, Dr. Guilfoyle agreed but suggested a mastectomy since she was opting out of radiation. Even though Patti’s cancer was only stage two and wouldn’t normally warrant a mastectomy, Dr. Guilfoyle felt that her refusal to do other treatment left her at a higher risk and the mastectomy would be the best option. However, Patti didn’t want a mastectomy either. 

After a few months of going back and forth, Dr. Guilfoyle and Patti finally agreed upon a lumpectomy. However, she still didn’t want radiation or even further mammography. Dr. Guilfoyle says that Patti wasn’t her first patient to refuse recommended treatment and her main goal when it came to treating Patti was to make sure she had all of the options in front of her so she could make informed decisions. “She allowed me to explain all of the treatment options and why I believe they are important. I, in turn, was respectful of what she was amenable to and what her alternative specialists recommended,” says Dr. Guilfoyle. 

In addition to the lumpectomy, Patti told Dr. Guilfoyle that she had adopted the Gerson Therapy, which focuses on a rigorous diet and lifestyle modification that includes a plant-based diet as well detoxification and supplements. Patti was impressed with Dr. Guilfoyle’s reaction to her choice. “She immediately wrote down the name of the therapy and said ‘I’m researching it’ and she did,” says Patti. 

Patti says that she did have to promise Dr. Guilfoyle that she would follow her alternative therapy very closely and stick to it. “This is actually a lifelong therapy model. You can’t go back to your regular lifestyle after this,” she says. 

Dr. Guilfoyle says she was happy to work with Patti to ensure that she was comfortable with her treatment plan. “I think it’s extremely important to consider the patient’s wishes when developing a treatment plan and I was happy to work with Patti because I knew she was making educated decisions and willing to accept responsibility for the potential consequences of deviating from the standard of care,” says Dr. Guilfoyle. 

Following her lumpectomy Dr. Guilfoyle asked Patti to come in every three months for regular check ups to make sure that she continued to do well and Patti is happy to report that she remains cancer free. She says she always recommends Dr. Guilfoyle. “I love Dr. Guilfoyle. She always made me feel comfortable and didn’t reprimand me or make me feel bad for my decisions,” she says. 




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