Successful Breast Cancer Treatment for Local Mom
Tina VanDevander of Germantown discovered she had breast cancer at age 30. With it came uncertainty, questions and fear of what was ahead.
Thanks to the coordinated cancer care provided by the clinical team at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, today, at age 44, she’s cancer-free and, along with her husband, Mike, has been able to watch her son grow up.
VanDevander’s cancer journey started in March 1998, when she discovered a pea-sized nodule in her right breast while performing a self-exam. A mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy revealed it was malignant. Her son, Nick, was a little younger than 3 at the time.
VanDevander underwent a lumpectomy, followed by six months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation.
“My doctors would all meet so they all knew my case and who I was,” she says. “I developed a very close bond with my oncology nurses, and I’m still friends with them after 14 years.”
Four years after her initial diagnosis, VanDevander discovered two malignant lumps on her left breast, leading to a mastectomy. She later had a mastectomy on her right breast, as well, after genetic testing showed she had a gene increasing her risk for certain cancers.
“The only days of work that I missed were the Fridays that I had treatment, and for each surgery,” she says. “I was trying to keep everything normal for my son.”
VanDevander has been cancer-free for 10 years.
“I’m just happy that I’ve been able to watch my son get to his senior year in high school and now we’re planning on college,” VanDevander says.
Stopping Pancreatic Cancer in Its Tracks
When Carolyn Windbeck, 77, was taken to the hospital earlier this year with chest pain, the last thing she expected was for doctors to discover a possibly cancerous tumor on her pancreas. “The chest X-ray showed that my heart was OK, but that I had a spot on my pancreas that needed to be looked at,” says Windbeck, a Sandy Spring resident. “When they said it was a tumor, I knew immediately that I wanted it removed, and my husband agreed.”
Her doctor sent her to Bobby David, M.D., a general surgeon at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park.
“Carolyn had a tumor in the tail of the pancreas. Tumors like hers become invasive cancers if they’re not surgically removed,” Dr. David says. “We talked about her options for removing it, and agreed that minimally invasive robotic surgery would be the best way to go.”
Says Windbeck: “As a retired operating room nurse, I knew that robotic surgery hasn’t been around for a very long time. I decided to try it, though, because I trusted Dr. David and have always had a good experience at Washington Adventist Hospital. I also knew the incision would be smaller, so my recovery would be faster, which I liked.”
Dr. David performed a distal pancreatectomy, where half of the pancreas is removed, using the da Vinci surgical system. Dr. David is one of the first doctors in the area, and among a few nationwide, to perform this procedure robotically.
“Typically, the spleen is also removed during pancreatic surgery,” Dr. David explains. “However, by doing the procedure robotically, I have an enhanced ability to visualize and operate on the surrounding blood vessels without having to remove the spleen.”
Patients who undergo robotic surgery tend to experience less pain, fewer complications, a shorter hospital stay and a quicker return to normal activities. Both Washington Adventist and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals have expert surgeons who are robotically trained in areas such as general surgery, urology and gynecology. Both hospitals have the da Vinci surgical system.
“The recovery was remarkable. Just a week after my surgery, I woke up and I was completely pain free,” Windbeck says. “You go into surgery not always knowing what to expect, but luckily I had a great team pointing me in the right direction, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”