Being diagnosed with and treated for cancer is never easy, but when your treatment is delivered with the highest standard of professionalism, care, and empathy it can make all the difference.
This was Newmarket mother of two Linda Dobe’s experience when she was treated for head and neck cancer at the PA Hospital.
Linda first noticed a lymph node under her chin had become quite swollen, which led to her GP sending her for blood tests and an ultrasound, and eventually a diagnosis of HPV head and neck cancer in February.
“They did a biopsy and it was confirmed as HPV, and I went off to Professor (Ben) Panizza, who did a number of scans and biopsies; All the diagnostics went to the PA’s Head and Neck Clinic where all the specialists looked at the results which was a really interesting process for me,” she said.
“They reported back to Professor Panizza with recommendations to get a tonsillectomy because that’s where it was showing up in my PET scan. Though in the end the primary wasn’t in the tonsil because when he did surgery the biopsy was negative.
“He said to me “we’ve got this really early because you can’t feel the tumour in the lymph”. The tumour in my lymph was relatively small and the primary cancer was so small you couldn’t see it any of the scans. They believe it may have been in the base of my tongue.”
Professor Panizza informed the wife to Doug and mother to Jane, 15, and Alice, 14, that the best way to treat her cancer was through radiation therapy and her care was then transferred to Professor Sandro Porceddu and the PA’s Radiation Oncology team.
Reassured by the fact her cancer had been diagnosed early and by the knowledge her chances of survival were as high as 95 per cent, Linda underwent six treatments a week for six weeks under the care of the Radiation Oncology team, affectionately known at the PA as RadOnc, and couldn’t speak more highly of their efforts.
“They did a great job there, it was hard because it was in my throat so eating was difficult, I’ve lost 10 kilos and with my throat it can be hard to talk for long periods of time, so there is ongoing treatment with a speech pathologist and a physio as well. But I’m going well and I’m back at work,” Linda said.
“My care was fantastic, they’re just a really good team who were all closely linked in, if I walked in for my radiation treatment the radiation staff would always ask how my night was, and they knew me well enough that they could tell when I was struggling, and they would communicate with the nurses who would check in and make sure I was ok. My nurses were my guardian angels.
“Sandro is just wonderful and the whole team was good to me whenever I wasn’t well. I’m pretty proactive with my health and if I was really not feeling well, I would seek someone out and it was always no trouble for them to go and get a doctor to check me out.”
Linda said alongside the car park that is right next to the PA’s Radiation Oncology department, one of the best aspects of her care that she appreciated was the fact that multiple medical specialists were part of her treatment team.
“It was great to have this whole team looking after me, from the dietitians and the occupational therapists, the physios and speech therapists, everyone came in at different times to help which I was grateful for,” she said.
Having now got all clear which she said was ‘just the best news’, Linda said she would be quick to tell others that supporting other cancer patients at the PA through the PA Research Foundation was a more than worthy endeavour, and she is very grateful to have access to such professional care, and to have had wonderful support from her family and friends.
“I’d definitely encourage others to support the PA if they can, I’ve had friends who’ve had breast cancer treatments in other places, and they certainly didn’t get the wholistic care that I was given at the PA. I felt very well looked after by the PA and I am so grateful to the Hospital’s Oncology team.
“I know they do this work every day, but for me as a patient it was the most challenging time of my life and they always made me feel special and their professionalism let me trust them to help me to beat cancer.”
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