Most people don’t consider a bowel obstruction a lucky break. But for Murrells Inlet resident Rita Hyles, an intestinal blockage in October 2017 may have saved her life.
During the course of treatment for the blockage, a CT scan of her stomach revealed a spot on her lung. That spot turned out to be stage 2 lung cancer.
“I feel like God answered my prayers since they found it so early. I had no symptoms,” says Hyles, a retired hairdresser. “I had been working in my yard three hours a day before the diagnosis. There were no signs at all.”
After the spot on her lung was found, Hyles underwent several tests to determine if it was cancer. To confirm a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan, Hyles had surgery in December 2017. During the procedure, the surgeon discovered she had a type of cancer called an adenocarcinoma. An upper left lobectomy was performed to remove the cancerous tissue.
Because two lymph glands were also involved, Hyles was referred to Dr. Carol Bogdan, a board-certified oncologist who offers care at the Murrells Inlet and Georgetown locations of Tidelands Health Oncology.
“She’s a wonderful, wonderful person and a great doctor,” Hyles says.
Hyles started chemotherapy in January 2018 and completed the treatment in July. A follow-up CT scan determined she didn’t need radiation therapy, and she was deemed cancer free in August of last year.
Kristi Kipe, a nurse navigator with Tidelands Health Oncology, guided Hyles through her treatment, helping her and her family to know what to expect.
Every patient that receives cancer care through Tidelands Health Cancer Care Network, our region’s most comprehensive provider of cancer care, is eligible to benefit from the support of the health system’s nurse navigators.
“We sit down with the patient and their family members and go over their chemotherapy regimen in detail. We give them educational hand-outs and discuss things like side effect management, nutrition and what to expect during treatment,” Kipe says.
Tidelands Health nurse navigators also serve as contact points for patients. They field questions or concerns about treatment, and they connect patients with community resources if needed.
“We really form a bond with our patients by being that single point of contact for them, which I think is so important for continuity of care and patient comfort,” she says.
Nurse navigators continue to assist patients even after treatment is over.
“We go over their survivorship care plan, which is a summary of their cancer treatment, all in one document. We discuss the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, reporting any new symptoms right away and keeping up with all of their follow-up appointments,” Kipe says. “Even after treatment is complete and they have their survivorship care plan, we are still available should patients have any questions or concerns.”
Hyles attributes her successful battle against cancer to the support of family and friends and a positive attitude.
“I know that it can come back, but I’m not going to worry about that,” she said.
Hyles will have CT scans every three months for the next two years to ensure cancer doesn’t reappear in her lungs or stomach. For many patients, that follow-up testing can be stressful, Kipe said.
“Fear of recurrence is very real, and many patients face it for the rest of their lives. It can be very stressful when it is time for scans or blood work because of what they have been through,” she said.
Hyles, though, isn’t overly concerned about the follow-up scans and testing. She says she’ll face them with the same positive outlook she did her initial cancer treatment.
“I’m a fighter,” she said. “If it does come back, I’ll just deal with it.”