Phillips’ story started months earlier when she noticed some discomfort while going to the bathroom. Thinking she might have hemorrhoids, Phillips went to see her primary care doctor, who referred her to Michael Chen, MD, with Bronson Colon & Rectal Surgery.
Dr. Chen’s examination revealed a tumor and he asked Phillips and her husband, Donnie, to stay at the hospital for a couple of hours so he could perform a biopsy. The test showed that Phillips had anal cancer. Kelly Kulczyk, RN, of Bronson’s Oncology Nurse Navigator Service, was brought into the process to provide support and to help coordinate Phillips’s next steps. Medical oncologist Sreenivasa R. Chandana, MD, and radiation oncologist Salvador Espinoza, MD, explained the best course of treatment for Phillips’ cancer. It involved six weeks of daily radiation treatments to the affected area and two separate weeks of chemotherapy.
Phillips’ treatments seemed to go fine. Her daughter, Melanie, drove her to every appointment. But on the morning of her final radiation appointment, Phillips woke up feeling awful. She was vomiting and had a fever. Melanie insisted on driving her to Bronson’s Emergency Department.
Phillips was admitted to the hospital and learned that she was seriously ill with infections likely caused by the radiation treatment. The worst part was being unable to get out of bed to use the bathroom. That was, she says, “a very humbling experience.” Phillips’ nurses helped her through the embarrassment and discomfort.
Feeling “fuzzy” from powerful pain medication, Phillips says she slept through most of her hospitalization. At times she felt that she would not survive. Both Dr. Espinoza and Dr. Chandana visited her at Bronson and assured her that she was slowly getting better. After nine days, with infections conquered, Phillips went home.
That hurdle overcome, Phillips started regaining her health. Dr. Chen performed a colonoscopy and biopsy to check her progress a few months later. Just days after her 60th birthday, he was able to give her a wonderful gift by telling her the news that her cancer is in remission.
Though she still tires easily, Phillips is back to work part-time in the office at Canney’s Water Conditioning in Kalamazoo. She is also back to taking motorcycle rides on Donnie’s Harley Davidson, cooking and baking for family and friends, and playing with her red Labrador, Deacon, and cats Willy and Kitty Lou. When Phillips thinks back to her experience at Bronson, what stands out most she says, is that “Everyone treated me with the utmost kindness.”