As cancer survivors themselves, surgical nurse Christie Isenhour, BSN, RN-BC, Patient Care Manager, and Lisa Nealen, RT(R)(M), Mammography Technician, have unique perspectives that enhance the care they provide to cancer patients.
Both feel that their blend of personal experience and clinical knowledge
makes a dramatic difference in their ability to support others facing
a journey with cancer.
When she was just 33 years old, Christie noticed a “dimple”
on the side of her left breast and followed her instinct by making an
appointment with her primary care doctor. The doctor scheduled a mammogram
but reassured her saying that 99% of dimples turn out to be a false alarm.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t – Christie was diagnosed with stage
two breast cancer.
The day after her twin daughters turned six years old, Christie underwent
a double mastectomy and then started a series of 13 chemotherapy treatments.
Eventually she lost her hair, had a hysterectomy, reconstructive surgery
and a long recovery period before returning to work. During the time Christie’s
role changed from being a caregiver to receiving care herself, she developed
a deeper appreciation for the love and care her co-workers provide. She
also gained new insight about the opportunities she now has to help cancer
patients facing the overwhelming unknowns she faced.
“I never understood the amount of vulnerability cancer patients experience
until I went through it myself,” Christie says. “They face
a disease that will ultimately change their body and family forever. It
may take their hair, their security, and possibly their life.”
Lisa, on the other hand, was not shocked when she received her diagnosis.
Breast cancer had already taken the lives of her mother and two maternal
aunts, and her niece had been diagnosed shortly before her. With her family
history, a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery was her best option
for treatment. She dreaded the long, hard journey, but found comfort in
her faith, in the support and love her husband showed, and, in her team
With reconstructive surgeries, it takes a long time to get back to your
NEW normal – co-workers become your best friends and Lisa felt that
her team was “great.” They took great care of her and helped
as much as they could. She grew to have a greater appreciation of what
the patients she sees daily are struggling with, and now has a better
ability to relate with them.
“My breast cancer journey has allowed me to be able to relate first-hand
experiences with my patients,” Lisa says. “I know all the
emotions—fear, disbelief, anger, etc.”
While Christie and Lisa experienced different journeys, they both found
strength in themselves and others around them. Both women stress the importance
of monthly self exams, regular mammograms, and regular physicals. If you’d
like to learn more about early detection of breast cancer or breast cancer
treatment options, contact our
Cancer Resource Center.
Catawba Valley Medical Center’s Breast Health Center has been recognized by The American College of Surgeons with their National
Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, and by Women’s Choice
Award as one of America’s Best Breast Centers.