‘I’m glad it happened here’
Learning as much as she could about breast cancer helped Patti Jaromin-Meis of Pittsville cope, as did support from daughter Audrey.
After being diagnosed with cancer, Patti Jaromin-Meis of Pittsville, Wisconsin, wondered: “Is there going to be a day when I don’t think about this every minute?’
“I didn’t think I could go a few minutes without being afraid,” said Meis, who learned in spring 2009 – right before turning 50 – that she had breast cancer. She had regular screenings and no family history of cancer.
Arming herself with information was helpful. “The best coping mechanism for me was to learn as much as I could.”
Meis pored over books friends gave her. She overcame reluctance to communicate her fears and feelings.
Different types of cancer
Meis learned about different types and different stages of cancer. “I was lucky to have it diagnosed so early,” she said. “I like to be in control of a situation, of my health.
There was that point where I was happy to relinquish that to experts at Marshfield Clinic.” An ultrasound, then biopsy, confirmed the cancer.
Radiologist Emmanuel Omoba, M.D., called her with the results.
“It was early, small, but devastating,” Meis said. “It was good to talk to him.”
During the next few weeks, Meis talked with several medical specialists who would become her health care team, including Surgical Oncologist
Jessica Wernberg, M.D.
“It was so important for me to be able to talk to Dr. Wernberg and her staff as much as possible,” Meis said. “Dr. Wernberg is amazing – her confidence, her knowledge really helped.”
“My approach is to use as much candor and honesty as I can and to convey information at a level the patient needs. I try to reassure people that the majority of breast cancer cases are treatable, and that we will take care of their individual cancer in the most appropriate way, using a multidisciplinary approach," Dr. Wernberg said.
Answering questions and developing a treatment plan alleviates fears, Dr. Wernberg said.
“A lot of people come in thinking it’s worse than it is. Part of my job is educating people about breast cancer. Having a plan allows people to be active and involved, and then they have more confidence to fight this.” Dr. Wernberg performed a lumpectomy on Meis in May, followed by 28 days of radiation therapy in summer.
Support of family
“I couldn’t have gone through this without the support of my family and friends,” Meis said. Her daughters, Audrey, then 13, and Madeline, then 19, joined her on the 35-mile trip to Marshfield for treatment nearly every day.
Talking with a friend and former colleague who previously had the same diagnosis and treatment also helped immensely.
Marshfield Clinic’s multidisciplinary breast care programs at Marshfield, Weston and Wausau Centers have earned accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). The Clinic was the first health care organization in central or northern Wisconsin to achieve this recognition.
NAPBC accreditation is given to centers that voluntarily commit to provide the highest level of quality breast care and undergo a rigorous evaluation and review process.
“For our patients, everything they need for breast care is available right here – quicker access, a team-based approach to care and resources to help them understand their diagnosis and treatment options,” said Dr. Wernberg, director of the Marshfield Clinic Breast Care Center.
The team includes a nurse navigator, cancer survivorship coordinator, surgical, medical and radiation oncologists, and specialists in plastic surgery, medical genetics, counseling services and research if needed.
“It’s important to have trust in your team,” Meis said, which made dealing with her cancer easier. All of those professionals were amazing. Clinic staff involved in bone scans, breast imaging and radiation therapy gave her comfort and security.
“If this was going to happen, I’m glad it happened here.”