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Liz Starman

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The Fight of Her Life

Faced with cancer, a young mom finds allies in the team at NCH

Liz Starman was busy raising two children, working at a neighborhood senior citizens home and enjoying suburban life with her husband when her world was turned upside down one day in September 2013.

She discovered a lump in her breast while doing a self-check and, hoping to allay any health fears, immediately turned to the NCH Breast Center for an ultrasound biopsy. The results confirmed a diagnosis of breast cancer.

The 38-year-old mother had been in good health and was preparing for a girls' trip to New York. After hearing the news, Liz tried to remain strong for her husband and children.

"I was completely shocked when I learned that I had breast cancer," Liz recalls. "The news was not what I expected. I called my husband with tears running down my face telling him the devastating news. I prepared myself for the fight of my life."

After talking with family and friends about her diagnosis, Liz was referred to Michael R. Kinney, MD, a breast surgeon on staff at Northwest Community Healthcare. She wasted no time in scheduling an appointment with Dr. Kinney and a nurse navigator at the Breast Center.

With her husband at her side, Liz relied on her NCH Nurse Navigator Sandy Hoffman for comfort, guidance and information about a plan to treat the breast cancer. Sandy helped put her at ease and discussed the breast cancer treatments.

"I connected with her and I felt that everything was going to be OK," Liz says. "I had arrived with a lot of anxiety and left feeling more relaxed."

Sandy provided ongoing support for Liz. "We continue to communicate with the patient and the family to make certain their treatment plan is continuing and they don't have additional questions and concerns," Sandy says.

After meeting with Dr. Kinney, Liz underwent a positron emission mammography (PEM) scan for a closer look at the size of the tumor. The results revealed that the tumor was larger than anticipated. Dr. Kinney recommended a mastectomy and reconstruction to be performed at the same time.

In late October, Liz headed to the NCH Breast Center for the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

"With lots of anxiety, my parents and husband took me to the Breast Center," Liz recalls. "Sandy was there to meet me and talk to my family. When I awoke, I cried and knew my future was going to be a long journey."

Sandy sensed Liz's fear of the unknown and invited her to a cancer survivors event a few weeks later at the hospital. "Liz came to the event and found it very helpful," Sandy says. "The event let Liz know that all of these people who attended are alive and have gone through a similar experience."

Just a few short months later, Liz is now eyeing the end of chemotherapy treatments and looking forward to living cancer-free. She says the doctors and nurse navigators at NCH helped manage a tough health crisis in her life.

"NCH is a good place to be in a situation like this because of all the attention you receive," she says. "You receive wonderful care during a very challenging time."

Michael R. Kinney, MD

Michael R. Kinney, MD

Surgeon at NCH

  • Medical school: Case Western Reserve University
  • Internship and residency: Loyola University Medical Center
  • Board-certified: General surgery

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Last Updated 04/10/2009