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Cancer hits oncology nurse navigator close to home

Lyn Pitman

Lyn Pitman, RN, has long had a passion for serving patients battling cancer.

She’s spent more than three decades as an oncology nurse at Via Christi and, since January 2016, has served as an oncology nurse navigator whose primary focus is lung cancer screening and support.

She’s also taken to heart her own advice and faithfully gone in for an annual mammogram since turning 50.

“I’ve had a few call backs for further testing, but up until last January they’d always shown no evidence of cancer-related issues,” says Lyn.

So when she got a call back from the Radiology department at Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph – only a few weeks after beginning her new role – she wasn’t overly concerned.

Lyn went in for a diagnostic mammogram, which was then followed by a sonogram. The radiologist asked her to look at the digital images with him.

“I could see the cluster of calcification that he was concerned about,” says Lyn. “But I was still relatively sure that it was nothing.”

She was then scheduled for a stereotactic biopsy at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis. Her family physician called her with the results the following day: Lyn had ductal cancer in situ in her left breast, meaning that it had been detected at its earliest and in its most treatable stage.

So while she had spent years helping others understand and navigate the complexities of life with cancer, she was in shock. Says Lyn: “I had a new job and I was thinking, ‘What does this mean for my job, my family and my life going forward?’”

She was referred to breast surgeon Patty Tenofsky, MD, who had treated Lyn’s mother several years earlier, and her nurse navigator, Terri Leschuk, who helped her weigh her options. Lyn elected to have a lumpectomy coupled with a lymph node sampling to make sure that the cancer had not spread elsewhere.

Following her surgery at Via Christi Clinic on Founder’s Circle, Lyn was referred to two of the same physicians who had treated her mother: medical oncologist Jeremy Deutsch, MD, and radiation oncologist Jon Anders, MD. for further treatment recommendations.

They ordered further tests, which revealed that Lyn’s was an aggressive cancer for which radiation therapy could make a significant difference in preventing reoccurrence and improving her odds of survival.

Lyn had a total of 21 treatments spread over a four-week period, going in at 7:30 a.m. every day before heading to work. 

Now, cancer-free for almost a year, Lyn has a deeper understanding of what it means to be living with cancer.

“Even though people may look like they’re handling it well, they may be far more tired and be experiencing all kinds of physical and emotional side effects from their treatment,” says Lyn. “Even going through it with my mother, it was still so different.”

It’s also given her a profound appreciation for what a tremendous impact others — family, friends, caregivers and even strangers — can have on cancer patients’ journey.

“I am very grateful for mammograms and want every woman to know what a life-saver they can be.”

Join Lyn, others in the fight against breast cancer

Lyn Pitman, RN, and her Cancer Outreach and Risk Assessment colleague and fellow breast cancer survivor Shannon Little are co-captains for the Via Christi We Are One team at this year’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Saturday, Oct. 14.
 
To join their team or form a Via Christi team of your own or for more information, go to makingstrideswalk.org/wichitaks

About Roz Hutchinson

Roz Hutchinson is a Wichita wife, mother and chief spoiler of six grandkids and three Chihuahuas, a die-hard women's basketball fan, and director of Communications and Public Relations for Via Christi Health.