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Doctors Celebrate Patients’ Successes

WHEELING — The culmination of a successful battle against breast cancer is one of the landmark moments of a patient’s life. Through treatment and its ups and downs, through tense times and uncertainty, that patient’s success is a moment of great joy.

And the doctors who help in that battle are right there with them, wanting to celebrate.

To see a patient leave a hospital cancer-free is an exhilarating feeling, according to the doctors at WVU Medicine and the WVU Cancer Institute at Wheeling Hospital who are on the front lines of the breast cancer fight.

“Sharing their journey and watching them deal with this disease with courage and grace has led me to a tremendously rewarding career that I am grateful for,” said Dr. Rosemarie Hardin, a surgeon at WVU Medicine Wheeling Hospital specializing in breast care.

Patients who have completed successful breast cancer treatment want to let their loved ones know that they’ve won the fight. Dr. Jondavid Pollock, chair of radiation oncology at the WVU Cancer Institute at Wheeling Hospital, said that patients often ask when they can tell people that they’re cured.

He tells them that, as soon as their treatment is complete, they’re a cancer survivor. He’s been able to deliver that message throughout a long career — in Wheeling since 2000 — and each time, there’s a feeling of satisfaction that comes from saying it.

“Having done this as long as I’ve done this, it never goes away,” he said. “It may not be as obvious now as it was when I started, but it’s still extremely self-satisfying to know you’ve participated in somebody’s cure.”

It’s not just about the finish line for doctors treating breast cancer. Watching patients through their journey also can get them teary-eyed. Dr. Hannah Hazard-Jenkins, director of the WVU Cancer Institute, has watched so many breast cancer patients fight the good fight.

It’s a humbling experience to be in their corner, she said.

“If you think about the trust that somebody puts into my hands and their care team,” she said, “completely coming to it vulnerable and, for the most part, without understanding and just let us take care of them and trust us to take care of them, it is probably one of the more humbling things that I’ve been experiencing and, thankfully, get to continue to experience week after week.”

Hazard-Jenkins continues to be amazed by breast cancer patients’ inner strength, pulling that determination and will from places within that they may not have known that they had. She’s always impressed by their perseverance. And she loves that she can be there from start to finish and let out a cheer at the end.

“It’s the best part of my job, hands down,” she said. “Out of all the job titles and everything I’ve done, it’s the best part of my job.”

The doctors all say that success stories are more possible if breast cancer is detected and treated early. Some may be afraid of doctors. Some may be afraid that the small lump they feel could be something very serious.

Yet breast cancer doctors all say that fear and hesitance can become dangerous if a cancerous tumor is left to fester. Early detection is key.

“Please don’t delay a screening mammography as this is how we detect a good majority of our cases,” Hardin said. “Most patients present with an abnormal mammogram rather than a palpable mass that they feel.

“Screening is therefore vital,” she continued, “and I would like to stress to women who may be postponing this during the pandemic for fear of coming to the hospital that we are providing a safe environment for this very important screening. If the pandemic has taught us one thing is that self care and health is important, so please get your preventative screening done.”

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