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Surviving Breast Cancer and Heart Attack in One Year

Janice Stoudnour benefited from LVHN’s cancer and cardio-oncology programs

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Janice Stoudnour benefited from LVHN’s cancer and cardio-oncology programs

Janice Stoudnour, 67, of Saxton, Pa., always got her yearly mammogram – and then COVID happened. Her annual screening mammogram was scheduled for February 2020, but it got pushed back to September 2020. Since her mammograms had always come back clear in the past, the delay (while not ideal) was not overly concerning. However, this time her mammogram showed there was something wrong. Uneasy, she tried to book a diagnostic mammogram as soon as possible, but her local provider was not able to schedule her until the end of November.

“I was stressed out and worried,” says Stoudnour. “I wanted to get it taken care of now, and I wanted to know what was going on.”

“I can’t say enough good things about the care I’ve gotten at LVHN. I felt confident in my care knowing that my team of doctors were discussing my care and treatment with each other,” Stoudnour says.

Rapid diagnostic care

Her daughter, Erin, who lives in Emmaus, suggested she check with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), and relief came soon after – she was able to get an appointment at Breast Health Services at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest for the end of September. After a full day of diagnostic tests, two small tumors were found that indicated breast cancer. The same day, she was able to schedule follow-up appointments with breast surgeon Lori Alfonse, DO, with LVPG Surgical Oncology, followed by surgery later in November. 

“I had an excellent experience, and everyone was so nice,” says Stoudnour. “Dr. Alfonse explained everything the day of surgery. I was fearful, but she made me feel good going into surgery.”

Next steps after surgery

The tumors were removed, as well as a few lymph nodes to determine if the cancer had metastasized. Thankfully, it had not. However, Stoudnour would still need to undergo preventive radiation therapy. She completed a shorter, more intense radiation treatment with a local provider for convenience. When she finished, Alfonse connected her with oncologist Ranju Gupta, MD, with LVPG Hematology Oncology, for further preventive treatment, who helped her start an anti-estrogen therapy. To take away the burden of travel, Gupta utilized telemedicine appointments for Stoudnour’s care.

“I try to make the cancer journey easy for my patients and their families,” says Gupta. “Janice lives far away – at least three to four hours – and telemedicine came to the rescue. She is very warm and took her diagnosis in stride very well.”

Unexpected scare: heart attack

With her anti-estrogen maintenance treatment in place, Stoudnour got back to her normal life – caring for grandchildren and taking Zumba classes three days a week through Silver Sneakers. The morning of Sept. 20, 2021, she had finished her workout and was heading to pick up her grandson from preschool when she started to experience “crushing” chest pain.

“I had to sit down, and I started sweating so much. I had to lie down, and then I felt like I had to throw up. I knew something was wrong,” she says.

She called her husband, a local paramedic, but was unable to reach him at first. She finally connected with him shortly after, but had already started to lose feeling and use of her arms and legs. She knew it was a heart attack, and so did he. When he arrived home, he immediately drove her to the local emergency room, calling ahead to let them know they were on the way. Once she arrived, she was admitted and was able to have a catherization, as well as a stent placed. Unfortunately, scans also showed a nodule on her lungs.

Specialized cardio-oncology care

Ranju Gupta, MD and Deborah W. Sundlof, DO

Stoudnour was home in two days, and her family reached out to Gupta about her latest health developments. Gupta referred her to cardiologist Deborah Sundlof, DO, with LVPG Cardiology, for heart care, as well to LVPG Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine for further investigation in her lungs. She met with Sundlof just two weeks after her heart attack for evaluation through LVHN’s cardio-oncology program.

“We discussed her potential etiologies for her heart attack and ways to decrease that risk,” says Sundlof. “She did have radiation therapy for her breast cancer, and we discussed the potential role that played. The important thing is that with our partnership, we can help markedly decrease the chance  this happens again, and ensure she is as healthy as she can be going forward.”

Finding strength

Through all her health scares, Stoudnour credits her care team at LVHN for instilling hope, putting her at ease.

“I can’t say enough good things about the care I’ve gotten at LVHN. I felt confident in my care knowing that my team of doctors were discussing my care and treatment with each other,” she says. “You get scared of the unknown. And when you’re diagnosed with something (or have a heart attack), you’re so vulnerable. It’s a lot to go through. Am I going to die? What’s going to happen? But you have to make up your mind that you’ve got to move forward and try to find the strength to keep going. I’ve got too many things to do yet!” 

Concerned about your heart during or following cancer care?

Learn more about LVHN’s cardio-oncology program.

 

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