Former TV anchor experiences exceptional care at the Community Cancer Center
“I thought I was living a life that would prevent health problems,” recalls Carolyn Wettstone. Then in October 2015, the former Quad Cities TV news anchor was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It was completely unexpected,” she says. “I was a runner, a healthy eater and a non-smoker with no family history of cancer, period.”
As she fought back against cancer, Wettstone found comfort in blogging about her experience. Through her blog, Wettstone learned the care at the Community Cancer Center and UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s was not the standard everywhere.
“I heard from patients in other communities who said it took three weeks to get test results. I got my results in two to three days,” says Wettstone. “The Community Cancer Center made the process as easy as possible for me.”
One person who helped Wettstone was Breast Care Coordinator Wendy Young, RN. “I start working with you the moment you have your biopsy,” Young explains. “I try to calm your fears and let you know I will be walking side by side with you throughout your journey.”
Care coordinators take care of referrals to the support team connecting patients with specialized social workers, dietitians and more. For Carolyn Wettstone, that included consultation with Cancer Exercise Specialist Matt Schmitz. He works with providers and care coordinators to learn each patient’s needs and develop an individualized exercise plan.
“Carolyn was at a high level of fitness before her surgery, so we took baseline tests and talked about her exercise routine,” explains Schmitz. “I put together a plan to get her range of motion back post-surgery and work on strength lost during the healing process.”
Wettstone opted for a nipple-sparing double mastectomy with implants, performed by Kerri Nowell, MD, and Kahlil Andrews, MD, surgical specialists with Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa (PCI). “My body looks exactly like it did before,” says Wettstone, adding, “I was fortunate Drs. Nowell and Andrews are in Cedar Rapids. This operation is not available everywhere.”
Wettstone was also fortunate her oncologist, Rasa Buntinas, MD, PCI medical oncologist, could draw on the latest research in guiding her treatment. After reviewing new research results and consulting with Mayo Clinic physicians through a partnership with St. Luke’s and the Community Cancer Center in the Mayo Clinic Care Network, Dr. Buntinas determined Wettstone did not need chemotherapy. Says Wettstone, “I benefited from studies that have just been done.”
The Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center is the only cancer center in Cedar Rapids working together with the Mayo Clinic Care Network.
Today, Carolyn Wettstone is on the road back to health, accompanied by her family, including 11-year-old daughter Eden. “I want my daughter to learn from this and lead a healthier life,” says Wettstone. Together Wettstone and Eden attend pilates classes at the Community Cancer Center and take advantage of the open gym.
“It’s great that Carolyn is doing everything she can to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” says Schmitz. “By attending classes with her daughter, she’s passing the same values on to her.”
Wettstone adds, “Through my blog I met people who have also been touched by cancer. I could show them this is the way cancer treatment can be. This is the way cancer treatment should be.”