She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2000, a chronic disease whose symptoms include widespread pain, fatigue and weakness.
“I was in pain all the time,” she recalls. “I couldn’t function. I couldn’t get up and do anything. I couldn’t work. The pain was just excruciating.”
Debbie had to rely on medications to get her through each day. Even then, she remained in pain, and the medications themselves were debilitating.
“I was living in a medication fog,” she describes. “I felt dazed and confused most of the time. It was no way to live.”
By 2005, things had reached a breaking point. Debbie was being treated in the Emergency Department at Samaritan for migraine pain – her third visit in about a month – when a staff member suggested that she try the Interventional Pain Management Center at Samaritan to see if she could get any relief. It was a suggestion that changed her life.
“I had seen doctor after doctor with no real results and I was very discouraged,” she says. “The Pain Management Center changed everything. It’s taken time, and it’s been a process but my treatment there has made such a difference. I’m still in pain some of the time, but it’s a manageable pain. I’m able to do things now where I couldn’t before. I’m able to work, have a social life and just do the things that I want to do.”
Debbie’s physician was Dr. Ivan Montalvo, an anesthesiologist who is fellowship trained in Interventional Pain Management.
“Dr. Montalvo was wonderful! He tailored my treatment, and he’s so particular with everything that he does. He took the time before every treatment session to talk to me first and to ask about anything that was new or had changed. He answered all of my questions and explained everything to me in detail. He was also very good with answering questions from my boyfriend and my family. Not every doctor does this. I know Dr. Montalvo sees a lot of patients, but I feel like he truly makes time to care for each one of them.”
Over the years, Debbie has had a variety of treatments at the Pain Management Center, including neck and back lumbar epidurals and trigger point injections. She’s also received help with managing her medications. When Debbie started as a patient at the Pain Management Center the list of her medications was almost three pages long. Today, she is taking only five – and two of those are vitamins.
“I honestly can’t say enough good things about Samaritan’s Pain Management Center,” Debbie says. “The staff is incredible, and so helpful. I’ve already recommended the Center to friends. In fact, I’m happy to tell anyone that I think they can help how wonderful they are. They gave me my life back!”
Debbie is pictured below with Dr. Ivan Montalvo during one of her procedure days.
“We've found a lump in your breast.”
This was the news that Theresa Getter received after her normal yearly mammogram at Woman to Woman in October 2012.
“I hadn't felt anything myself,” she says. “The lump was deep within the breast and it was fortunate that the radiologist caught it. It could have easily been overlooked.”
After a second mammogram and three biopsies, Theresa was diagnosed with Stage 2A breast cancer in her right breast. It was estimated that the tumor was two centimeters.
“When something like this happens to you, you just don’t know what to think or what you’re supposed to do next,” Theresa says. “I was scared, of course, but I tried very hard to stay positive.”
Theresa got immediate support from Samaritan Oncology Nurse Navigator, Bonnie Trudeau. “Bonnie met with me right away and has been there for me every step along the way,” explains Theresa. “She does such an awesome job – you couldn't find a better person to help and guide cancer patients than her.”
After Watertown breast surgeon Dr. Deborah Norris gave Theresa her initial diagnosis of breast cancer, Theresa opted to go to Syracuse for a second opinion. After that office confirmed the diagnosis, Theresa then returned to Dr. Norris for treatment.
“The Syracuse practice made me feel like a number. I didn't feel that I was important to them. Dr. Norris, on the other hand, has been incredible. She helped explain my treatment options, she’s kept me informed, she made me feel comfortable, and she and her staff have always gone above and beyond for me. I would highly recommend Dr. Norris – and, in fact, I already have recommended her to several people I know.”
Due to her strong family history of breast cancer (her mother and great aunt both had it), Theresa decided to have a double mastectomy and then breast reconstructive surgery in December 2012. Dr. Norris performed the mastectomy, with plastic surgeon Dr. Guillermo Quetell doing the breast reconstruction.
After her surgery Theresa was told that a second, separate cancer was found in her left breast – one that had been undetected by her mammogram and other tests. The doctors also found that the lump in Theresa’s right breast was larger than initially estimated – five centimeters rather than two.
Post-surgery, Theresa underwent four months of chemotherapy and then seven weeks of radiation therapy to make sure that her cancer was completely gone. Her radiation therapy treatment was done by Dr. Daniel DeBlasio and the staff at the Walker Cancer Treatment Center at Samaritan – a group that Theresa calls “fantastic.”
Theresa’s journey has been a long one, but she recently received the very best of news. Her treatment is complete and she is cancer-free after her latest PET Scan.
“Now I’m focused on moving forward,” she says. “The support of God, my husband, my family, my friends and the wonderful and caring staff at Samaritan has meant everything to me and I’m so thankful and blessed.”
Pictured below are Theresa with Jackie Montrois and Dr. DeBlasio.