How many cancer survivors can boast that they went trekking in the Peruvian Andes three weeks after completing radiation and chemotherapy—at over age 70?
That’s exactly what breast cancer survivor Nancy Goldberg did after completing radiation therapy at UC Health for early-stage breast cancer.
When you meet Goldberg, a vivacious longtime resident of Blue Ash, you know she is an optimist and a survivor in every sense of the words.
“I always try to keep smiling and stay very active. It keeps me busy and optimistic,” she says.
Goldberg’s cancer journey began June 20, 2008, when she went in for her regular screening mammogram at a community physician’s office. A follow-up ultrasound and surgical biopsy confirmed she had stage-1 cancer. At the time, her physician suggested a mastectomy and cautioned against standard radiation therapy, citing concerns about heart damage due to her tumor’s location.
“I wasn’t sure what to do, but my son’s friend is a physician at the Dana Farber clinic and offered to review my pathology report. She suggested I get a second opinion,” explains Goldberg.
She sought that second opinion from UC Health physician surgical oncologist Elizabeth Shaughnessy, MD, PhD, who reiterated the same surgical option, but suggested Goldberg also meet radiation oncologist Ruth Lavigne, MD, who offers a sophisticated approach to radiation therapy only offered Tristate-wide at UC Health.
“Dr. Shaughnessy got on the phone right away and had Dr. Lavigne in the clinic a few minutes later to talk to me,” recalls Goldberg.
After reviewing her case, Lavigne suggested accelerated radiation therapy as a good alternative to surgery for Goldberg.
“Dr. Lavigne told me: ‘If you were my mother, I would tell you not to have surgery.’ It was comforting to have someone help me make this important decision,” says Goldberg.
Goldberg began chemotherapy in September 2008 and underwent six cycles of chemotherapy by late December. One month later, she started an accelerated course of radiation—twice daily for five days—on the Tomotherapy system at Precision Radiotherapy, a collaborative treatment center operated by UC Health radiation oncology and Mayfield Clinic.
Tomotherapy uses real-time imaging of tumors to guide and deliver targeted radiation in three dimensions. The result is more precise treatment of the cancerous cells and less damage to the surrounding tissues.
“My entire medical team was fantastic throughout the process,” says Goldberg. “The caring and concern they showed for me as an individual—not just another patient—made a big difference in getting through treatment.
Goldberg’s friends also became a wonderful support team throughout treatment; no family members lived close enough to support her through the process.
Now Goldberg is in follow-up, living life to the fullest and not letting cancer slow her down.
From exercise classes at the Mayerson JCC and educational classes at UC to senior, sisterhood and choir activities at the Isaac M. Wise Temple and get-togethers with friends, Goldberg says she is typically “booked solid five days a week.”