The Right Choice

Maria Maynard, 45, of Upton always assumed that if she had a major health diagnosis, she would choose a Boston hospital for her treatment. After she was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2015, she first visited The Breast Center at Milford Regional for a preliminary appointment with breast surgeon Ashling O’Connor, MD, and then scheduled a second opinion in Boston. What she discovered in Boston surprised her.

“I hated it. . .the place was huge,” recalls Maria, the mother of two teenage sons. “They give you a wristband with a bar code in case you get lost. The waiting room is filled with people. It was all just sort of nonchalant. They didn’t take into account how nervous and anxious I was feeling. I’m sure the doctor was incredibly competent, but it felt like I was just another number.”

Once she and her husband David left the hospital, Maria told him she wanted to go back  to Dr. O’Connor. “It was such a different experience that I had with her. She was so sweet and took her time explaining everything. I took my husband and mom with me and hardly asked any questions. I kind of went deaf, dumb and blind. She looked at me and said this is a very lazy tumor. At the end of the appointment, she gave me a hug and said you’re going to be fine. It was very reassuring to meet with her.”

Maria’s primary care physician, Dr. Monica VanCampen, discovered the lump during her physical. After the mammogram showed a suspicious mass, Dr. VanCampen referred her to Dr. O’Connor. 

“It’s a very scary time and we do try to make it as easy as we possibly can for the patient,” notes Dr. O’Connor.  “It’s important to be empathetic. The treatment plan we set up for each patient is going to be different, so it’s important that we take the time to understand each patient’s situation and disease.”  

Maria acknowledges that every professional involved in her care, from beginning to end, tried to put her at ease. “As miserable as I was feeling, full of anxiety, the staff was wonderful,” she says. “I could hardly talk when I had the biopsy and was going through the motions, but the technician was sweet and comforting. The radiologist took his time explaining what he was going to do, and it was painless.”

In addition to coordinating her biopsy and surgery, The Breast Center set up an appointment for genetic testing and connected her with Natalie Sinclair, MD, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DFBWCC) at Milford Regional.

“We have very close communication with the specialists at DFBWCC,” explains Dr. O’Connor.  “We meet them every other week and are in frequent contact with them in between. With regard to breast care, you may wind up seeing four different specialists. It’s important that we sit down and talk to each other about each patient.”

Since Maria’s cancer was isolated to one area, Dr. O’Connor recommended a lumpectomy in which a small incision is made to remove the tumor and a small surrounding area of tissue. The procedure was scheduled for January 11, 2016. Maria states that she was a nervous wreck before the surgery.

“I did not love that experience, but everyone there from the first woman who took me in to have nuclear dye injected, then up to mammography to do a wire localization into the tumor, was so nice and how they approached it was very calming. Then we went down to day surgery and met with the anesthesiologist. Even the nurses doing the prep were nice to talk to, and then Dr. O’Connor came down and talked to me for a minute. During the recovery, the nurses were great. I left there thinking wow, as miserable as the whole process was, the surgery part really could not have gone any better.”

Following surgery, Maria had a six-week course of radiation and was prescribed tamoxifen, a medication used to treat and prevent breast cancer for ten years. While the radiation made her skin a bit raw, Maria was relieved to have no other side effects. A human resources manager at an engineering firm, she left work early for her treatments and notes that the staff was efficient and friendly.

“It was super convenient not to have to go to Boston,” she says. “It meant everything to have the care so close by. I just can’t imagine the additional stress it would be to travel a distance for the surgery, the radiation and all the appointments and follow-ups. I was very impressed by Milford.  It was as good an experience as it could be. They were all so professional and really knew their stuff.”

To make an appointment with Dr. O’Connor, call The Breast Center at 508-482-5439.

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