Tammy’s story: My breast cancer ‘dream team’
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
When Tammy Servatius was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 44, she made a bucket list of things she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
Now, though, she no longer has breast cancer – thanks to what Servatius calls her “dream team” of Aurora BayCare specialists – but she says she’ll still complete that bucket list.
“I enjoy the little things. I enjoy the smell of the rain. I actually stop to smell the roses now,” says Servatius, who’s now 46.
Servatius knows health care – she’s a nursing home administrator at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, near Waupaca – so she was diligent about having a mammogram every year to check for breast cancer.
Three months later, it was a shock when she felt something unusual in her left breast. She went in to have it checked.
“When they called for an ultrasound and an X-ray technician, it was a pretty scary time,” Servatius says. “It’s scary by itself knowing you’re going for a biopsy. I was so scared. It was a weird scared.”
“Tammy had a small tumor,” says Dr. Cynthia L. Geocaris, a breast surgeon with Aurora BayCare General & Vascular Surgery. “It’s the most common kind, but it was high grade, with cancer cells growing at a high rate.”
Servatius had infiltrating ductal breast cancer, in which cancer cells form in the milk ducts and spread into other parts of the breast tissue. It was stage 3, meaning the cancer had spread beyond the tumor, perhaps into nearby lymph nodes and muscles.
She discussed her treatment options with Geocaris and Diane Haszel, a cancer nurse navigator. They included a lumpectomy, removal of one breast or removal of both breasts with breast reconstruction.
“A double mastectomy was probably my best option. I had a double mastectomy because I didn’t want it in my other breast,” Servatius says.
The double mastectomy was done in July 2015, followed by five months of chemotherapy. Subsequent tests showed Servatius’ cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes. She takes tamoxifen, an estrogen blocker, to reduce the risk of the tumor coming back.
“Her prognosis is very good,” Geocaris says. “Five years out, there’s a 95 percent chance the cancer won’t come back.”
For breast reconstruction surgery, Servatius turned to Dr. Elizabeth A. O’Connor of Plastic Surgery & Skin Specialists by BayCare Clinic, who has rebuilt one breast at a time.
“One done … one more surgery to come. We’re slowly resolving the girls,” Servatius says.
“I had the dream team. It was cool that they were all women,” Servatius says of her specialists, who included Dr. Nancy B. Davis, an oncologist, in addition to O’Connor, Geocaris and Haszel.
“I’m getting back to my life. I’m doing great,” she says.
As for that bucket list, Servatius has this: “I want to be around for weddings and babies,” she says.
Servatius was married on the Fourth of July, scarcely a year after her double mastectomy. She also has an 18-year-old son, Jake.
“I wondered what his life would be like without me,” she says of the uncertain time that followed her breast cancer diagnosis.
Thanks to her dream team, Tammy Servatius wonders no more.
Dr. Cynthia L. Geocaris sees patients at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. For information, call 877-677-5384. Dr. Elizabeth A. O’Connor sees patients in Green Bay and Oshkosh. For information, call 920-288-8240. Requests for appointments can be made online.
Cynthia L. Geocaris, MD, FACS, is a Board Certified general and vascular surgeon at BayCare Clinic General & Vascular Surgery. Dr. Geocaris is trained in robotic and laparoscopic surgery and has performed hundreds of robotic surgeries. She also has special interest in breast and bariatric surgery. Learn more here.
Elizabeth A. O’Connor, MD, received her medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. She completed her residency in plastic surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Dr. O’Connor is fellowship trained in Aesthetic and Reconstructive Breast Surgery. Learn more about her here.