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Superstar team key to Terri's recovery

  • Thanks to help from her cancer care coordinator, Terri Beckstead's journey through breast cancer treatment became easier.

    This fall, Terri Beckstead celebrated her return to good health by training for a triathlon. She's happy to be active again after a long journey through treatment for breast cancer.

    Beckstead, 48, learned she had breast cancer in August 2012 at United Hospital's Breast Center. She decided on a double mastectomy, and several reconstructive surgeries and chemotherapy followed.

    Now she has a clean bill of health, and she credits her "superstar team" at the Breast Center: oncologist Bronagh Murphy, MD, and surgeon Omer Sanan, MD.

    One constant throughout the ups and downs of treatment has been Carrie Czech, RN, her cancer care coordinator. "Carrie helped me understand what I was dealing with and what to expect," Beckstead explained. "She's this comforting and compassionate person. I could call Carrie and say, 'What does this mean?'"

    Czech provides one-to-one support for United's patients with breast cancer. Drawing on 20-plus years as an oncology nurse, she helps patients navigate the health care system, answers questions and connects them with helpful resources.

    "I tell patients, 'Call me when you don't know who to call. I'll point you in the right direction,'" Czech explained.

    Czech sat in on Beckstead's first appointment with Murphy. She wrote down key information about Beckstead's biopsy and upcoming treatment. They reviewed the notes afterward, and Beckstead kept them.

    "Patients get a lot of information early on, and it's difficult for them to absorb it all. I can attend doctor appointments with patients and take notes," Czech said. As patients gain understanding of cancer and learn about their treatment plan, their anxiety level drops. "Then, with our support, the plan feels doable and patients can handle it."

    Beckstead's treatment was complicated by an infection after one of her reconstructive surgeries. She recalled that Czech would call and ask, "How are you doing? Are you clear about your next step?"

    This allowed her to get support from someone outside her circle of family and friends. "From the beginning, Carrie gave me information to help me make decisions. No matter what happened, I always had Carrie to help me."

  • Terri Beckstead outside on a sunny day, in corner of photo a picture of her cancer care coordinator Carrie Czech, RN

    Terri Beckstead and, inset, her cancer care coordinator Carrie Czech, RN