Fighting Cancer is Personal...Erica’s Story
When Erica Zimmer did the 200 mile Tour de Pink Bike Ride last September for the Young Survivors Coalition, she was not just accomplishing an impressive physical feat. She was also celebrating being cancer free – exactly a year after being diagnosed with an aggressive and advanced form of breast cancer.
This 35 year-old teacher from Brandon, VT was diagnosed with breast cancer after returning home from teaching English in the Philippines for the Peace Corps. Misdiagnosed while overseas, Erica insisted on a second opinion when she returned to the US. After diagnosis, surgery and chemotherapy at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, VT, she then switched her care to Rutland Regional Medical Center’s Foley Cancer Center, where she received 2 months of daily radiation treatment.
Erica was treated by Rutland’s radiation oncologists and technicians using our Varian Trilogy linear accelerator, the latest in a new generation of cancer care systems. Since installing the Trilogy System, the number of patients able to receive treatment at the Foley Cancer Center has greatly increased.
This new technology has made the most advanced care in radiation treatment available to patients in the Rutland region. But what makes the patient experience at Rutland’s Foley Cancer Center so special? This advanced care is delivered with the same personalized compassion and warmth that the Foley Cancer Center is known for.
The support Erica received from the Foley Cancer Center staff made all the difference during her daily treatments. “The staff took the time to get to know me as a person. Within 2 days of going to Foley, everyone knew who I was and they knew my name. I never felt lost there, like you can be in a bigger hospital system. And when I had a concern or request, I felt heard. I noticed that right away...the doctors and staff listened.”
Oncologists Dr. Allan Eisemann and Dr. Richard Lovett, and the Foley Cancer Center staff, were available for Erica every step of the way, and they certainly listened when Erica described the graduation ceremony she wanted to have at the end of her treatment. “I dressed up in a cap and gown, and all the staff stood in a line to shake my hand...just like an actual graduation. Someone played pomp and circumstance and they also took videos. It was wonderful.”
Though Erica plans on resuming her teaching career, for now she is relaxing and working on regaining her strength. She also continues to go to Foley Cancer Center every month to meet with Dr. Eisemann, who is now her primary oncologist.
And her involvement with the Cancer Center hasn’t stopped there. Erica suggested to Rutland’s social worker that the hospital start a support group for young cancer survivors. They worked on the project together, and the group now meets every month. As Erica says, “Rutland is small enough that you can make a suggestion, or ask a question, and they are incredibly responsive. I wish I had known about Foley from the beginning, but I am glad I am here now.”