Whenever Donna Dye shares her story, she always recalls the words of Marta Kenney, MD, at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Breast Care in Lexington.
“She said, ‘this mammogram saved your life,’” Dye, of Prestonsburg, remembers. “Chills went all over me. When you think that an X-ray, the determination of evaluating your health, is so vital to your life.”
Dye’s father died from pancreatic cancer and her mother had been successfully treated for breast cancer and colon cancer, so she knew her risk factors for developing cancer were high. She just didn’t think it would come so early in her life; she was 52 when diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer.
“I don’t know why I was putting an age limit on cancer,” she said. “Cancer doesn’t know an age limit. … Whether you’re in your golden years or later in life, this can happen. Cancer can happen at any age.”
Dye had been diligent in her annual exams, and the lump was found during a routine appointment with her doctor. The diagnosis from doctors was grim – triple negative … invasive and aggressive.
The team at Saint Joseph East moved quickly in implementing her surgery and treatment plan. Dr. John Strifling performed a lumpectomy, and Dye was referred to Jessica Croley, MD, for chemotherapy, and Olivia Ball, MD, for radiation therapy.
Dye, a devout Christian, is now cancer-free and credits the dedication of the cancer care team and the knowledge of her physicians. “God’s miracle of healing is amazing and comes in many forms,” she said during the Lexus of Lexington Yes, Mamm! Brunch for the CHI Saint Joseph Health Foundations last year. “The Saint Joseph family participants in God’s miracle of healing every day. During my treatment, they brought hope, support and went beyond to make such a difference in my life.”
Dye has worn long hair for three decades and knew the chemotherapy treatments could make her lose her hair. The thought really bothered her. “I thought, if I don’t really look that sick, maybe I can maintain a sense of me and get through this,” she explained. She prayed that something would change.
One particular day when she and her husband Chris were leaving the cancer care center sticks out. Dr. Croley and Stacy Florence, a social worker who then served as manager of Business Operations for Oncology Services, shared the idea of using a freeze cap, which could be worn during days she would have chemotherapy in an effort save her locks. The cap, which dropped to a temperature of 32 degrees below zero, would need to be worn for eight hours each day she had chemotherapy.
It wasn’t easy – the freeze cap requires 80 to 100 pounds of dry ice that needs to be changed regularly to keep the cap cold enough to protect the hair follicles. Chris made sure she had the support she needed. It’s a little thing, but it was important to Donna – “anybody’s priority should be their health first, but [keeping her hair] was a little miracle from God that helped strengthen me.”
She’s grateful for the team at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center for their attention to her emotional well-being, as well as for the quality health care they provided. She believes both were important for getting her to where she is now – cancer free since last spring.
“Not only I was treated, I was cared for,” she said. “I think that’s a big difference.”
Dye is resolved in her advice for women: “I would say be bold in getting your exams; be fierce about keeping your appointments,” she said.
For more information about the services available through CHI Saint Joseph Health – Breast Care, call 859.313.HOPE (4673).