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Shelli Whitmer Finds Support and Friendship During Cancer Treatment

Shelli Whitmer thanks radiation therapist Leanne Schirra, a member of her Dale and Frances Hughes care team, who helped ensure she felt secure and cared for during cancer treatment.

Shelli Whitmer, 49, of Lords Valley never thought she would need to worry about breast cancer. Yet, a routine mammogram in March 2018 discovered abnormal areas. Shortly afterward, Whitmer was on her way to Dale and Frances Hughes Cancer Center at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Pocono to meet her care team.

Surgery was in April. Radiation started in June. As of November, Whitmer was declared cancer-free. Yet, every Wednesday morning, she still drives 40 minutes to attend a cancer support group called Creative Expressions and visit with friends. “The whole place is like family. I love those people with all my heart,” Whitmer says.

Warm, friendly, healing

Dale and Frances Hughes Cancer Center at LVH–Pocono, part of Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute, provides a complete range of world-class cancer treatment services. A member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance (MSK Cancer Alliance), the cancer center provides patients with access to MSK clinical trials and resources. Whitmer also found it provides a warm, friendly place to heal and connect with others. “How protected and safe I felt in their hands,” she says.

Rapid, reassuring, amazing

Treating cancer requires a team, and Whitmer was impressed by every member.

“I met with my surgeon, Krista Bott, MD, with LVPG Breast Surgery, on a Tuesday and had surgery that Wednesday,” Whitmer recalls. “There was no waiting around, no time to worry.” Next was radiation oncologist Sean Quinlan-Davidson, MD, with Allentown Radiation Oncology Associates. “Amazing” is Whitmer’s word for him. Radiation therapists Leanne Schirra and Donald Donello provided treatment for Whitmer five days a week for five weeks.

“We danced, we hugged, we had fun,” Whitmer says. “On the last day, I cried because I wasn’t going to see them again.”

“We appreciate what is involved for patients having radiation therapy, and our team works hard to reassure and connect with them to make it easier,” Quinlan-Davidson says.

Thorough, caring, wonderful

Following radiation treatment, Whitmer met with hematology oncologist Sonyo Shin, MD, with LVPG Hematology Oncology, who answered “all three pages of my questions.”

And then there are social workers Aalih Hussein and Lynn Steele, the creative forces behind Creative Expressions. “I couldn’t have made it without them,” Whitmer says. “They are so helpful and run many wonderful programs.” These programs welcome current patients as well as those who have completed their care. “I made lifelong friends here,” she says.

Laurie Harrington

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