Erica Frantz was going out to a concert and she noticed how one breast was not normal. Itchy, hard and an inverted nipple were evident while she was in the shower.
Already scheduled for an annual gynecology exam in 10 days, she kept the appointment, but regrets waiting those few days. The physician sent her for a mammogram and her body was changing. Her right breast was growing and June 5 she noticed lymph nodes pushing out from her neck.
“Within six weeks everything was upside down,” Frantz said. Diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. The cancer had metastasized to her bones and further testing did confirm there was no cancer in the left breast, none in one ovary and none in her other organs - but an aneurysm was discovered in her brain.
She is 45 years old. Completing her first mammogram at age 44 and with no family history of breast cancer, the news was a shock.
Until that day in May, she never noticed anything out of the ordinary in her breast tissue. “Now I am telling my friends to get their mammogram. Do not poo-poo it,” she said.
Frantz said the Carle Health Methodist Oncology team is giving her the support and compassion needed to get through all of the changes.
“I would not wish this on my worst enemy but I am surrounded by the most wonderful team. I didn’t have to lift a finger. I just had to show up. I am so blessed,” she said.
Carle Health Methodist breast nurse navigator Karri Kazubowski, RN, OCN, said, “As nurse navigators, we serve as the central point of contact to the patient throughout the cancer care continuum. We identify barriers in all aspects of their care, and through collaboration with other members of their care team, we help reduce the fears and anxieties of patients and their family members so that they can better cope and focus on what lies ahead in their cancer journey.”
While checking Frantz for where there may be cancer in other parts of her body, doctors later found and offered treatment for a brain aneurysm. After just one night in the hospital she walked out the next day wearing her Wonder Woman socks and a single bandage.
Frantz continues working full-time in a stressful supervisory role after responding well to five cycles of chemotherapy. An avid consumer of medical research, Frantz is no stranger to serious procedures. As a youth competitive figure skater, she received a spinal fusion surgery in 2005 and in 2016 underwent the removal of her right thyroid lobe after a spider bit her on her neck. After it all, she is realistic but remains positive about her prognosis.
“This is going to be a lifelong battle,” she said. “Mental attitude has so much to do with how your body responds to treatment. “I give it a zero out of five stars, but the people around me get five out of five stars.”
Kazubowski said, “Working with oncology patients is very rewarding because you leave each day feeling like you have truly made a difference in the lives of the patients. Not only do they learn from us, but we learn so much from them as well, and that is very fulfilling.”
Carle Health physicians and staff specialize in treatment of numerous types of cancer, including complex and advanced stage cases. State-of-the-art equipment allows team members to more accurately locate, stage and treat the disease through an integrated approach that fits each patient.