In Her Own Words

Winning the Fight Against Cancer for 18 Years

Arshad Shaikh, MD, and Carol chat just before a recent chemotherapy session. After 10 years, they share a strong bond.

Carol Richards has been fighting cancer for eighteen years, and she takes it all in stride. She is simply not one to sit and dwell.

She will be on preventive chemotherapy for the rest of her life. She knows it. She accepts it. And she deals with it, every 3 - 4 weeks at the Leonard C. Ferguson Cancer Center at FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport.

Her journey started in 2001 with a breast cancer diagnosis. She had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery in Milwaukee. In 2009, a persistent cough took her to FHN otolaryngologist Shawn Shianna, MD, an ear/nose/throat specialist who was concerned her cancer may have spread. Unfortunately, he was right.

Dealing with Bad News

According to Carol, "Dr. Shianna immediately referred me for a scan, and my cancer had metastasized to my brain and lungs. At that time, I had radiation and chemotherapy at FHN's Ferguson Cancer Center in Freeport. I have been getting chemo here ever since - for over 10 years. I live in Chana, about a 50-minute drive, but it is well worth it. If it weren't for Dr. Arshad Shaikh and the wonderful nurses, I am not sure I would be here.

One thing that has really helped is that they always explain everything to me in 'normal' terms and check in with me throughout my treatment session, which lasts about two hours. After all the years I have gone there, I know they care for me as a person, not just a patient. I am more than just a medical file to them."

Choosing the Cancer Center

Julie Nampel, director of the Leonard C. Ferguson Cancer Center at FHN Memorial Hospital, shares that some patients who come to FHN had their original diagnosis or surgery out of town. "We care for patients who were originally diagnosed and/or treated at medical facilities elsewhere, yet choose FHN for their chemotherapy or radiation. We work with their physicians to ensure the best continuum of care, and the patients benefit from the innovative treatment we provide, often closer to home."

Luckily, Carol tolerates her chemotherapy treatment quite well. "I am on a drug that was new at the time I started taking it," she explains. "It doesn't make me very nauseated or tired, so that helps me get back to work quickly and lead an active life. I enjoy time on the boat, four-wheeler, snowmobile, or motorcycle. I love being outside for a ride!"