‘Blessed with the Care I Receive’ in Cancer Battle

April Nease

April Nease was 39 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2014.

April was director of development for the Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation and, through that work, was familiar with the cancer care team at CHI Saint Joseph Health. Knowing those doctors made her choice for care easy.

“The cancer center has been our biggest support,” her mother, Brenda Nease, said. “We have had easy access to doctors, social workers, infusion nurses … we can always make a call, day or night.”

That availability is a comfort for April and her mom, who have gone through the ups and downs of treatments – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – and multiple cancer diagnoses over the years. April’s initial diagnosis found cancer was in her breasts and liver; it metastasized to her brain, twice, to her uterine lining, and was most recently found in her lymph nodes and chest.

The flow of communication, April said, is “extremely important. Otherwise, you get online and you google what this symptom is. WebMD is telling you something and you’re freaking out and you have to wait two more weeks to have an official appointment with your doctor. But I felt comfortable calling and the nurses here … I know all of them now.”

No question is too “crazy” or too small, April said. “Like something I thought may have been a side effect or was just something I was feeling. Is that normal – I guess, is what most people want to know. Because if it’s normal, then that’s part of it and if it’s not, then how do we fix it?”

The staff shows genuine concern and interest at every encounter. When April comes into the infusion center, staff members will often ask about her niece’s soccer game … or about something she had done over the weekend – they make a connection to the patients.

And the staff knows what April prefers during her treatment. “They know exactly what chair I’m in and how many pillows I want … one pillow, two blankets.”

“I’m blessed with the care I receive,” April said, “everyone from the breast center where I was diagnosed, the infusion center where I see the girls twice a week …. They all make you feel very comfortable and are always concerned about how you feel.”

It’s also helpful that the staff is very transparent about what the treatments will entail and who will be involved. “They explain everything to you so you’re not sitting in a room thinking, ‘who are all these people?’” April said.

“It has sort of become a close-knit group of caring friends,” Brenda said.

April Nease

While the diagnosis was devastating, and her journey a difficult one, April has never wavered on her choice of provider.

From the beginning, the procedures that she would receive has been made clear. “It’s an ongoing planning,” April said. “They plan everything and give you an idea of what’s coming up next. … To say that’s overwhelming would be an understatement.”

April is also thankful for the resources – especially the support group provided through CHI Saint Joseph Health. “It is so good and, even though all of us here would rather not be a member of this club, we all learn something from each other,” she said.

After multiple surgeries and various treatments, April is back to twice weekly IV infusions. She strives to remain positive.

“I know there are some people who feel worse than I do every day,” she said. “The fact that I’m able to get dressed and go and do what I do … I’m fortunate. I wish I could do more because I used to be very active – being outside and hiking – but you just have to stay positive.”

Protect Yourself This Flu Season by Getting Vaccinated

With flu season upon us, it’s important to remember that a flu shot is the best way to prevent the ailment.

More than 3 million cases of the flu are treated each year in the United States. Thousands of people die from the flu each year, and many more are hospitalized by this potentially life-threatening illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About the Flu

The flu is an extremely contagious viral infection that typically spreads between October and May. The virus can be easily transferred through coughing, sneezing, skin-to-skin contact, saliva or contact with a contaminated surface. The infection attacks the lungs, nose and throat, commonly causing patients to suddenly experience fever and chills, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, sore throat, coughing and sinus problems.

No one is immune from the flu, and some people have a higher risk of dangerous flu-related complications. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women, those with chronic diseases and those who have weak immune systems are at a greater risk of catching the flu and developing serious complications. The flu virus can also worsen pre-existing medical conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Flu Vaccine

Flu viruses change from year-to-year, with new vaccine formulas needed to combat the virus. The flu vaccine is made before each flu season each year to protect against the viruses that are most likely to cause sickness in the upcoming flu season.

The CDC recommends that children 6 months to 8 years of age get two vaccines during each flu season. Those who are not at a greater risk need one vaccine per flu season. Tell your health care provider if you have ever had an allergic or adverse reaction after a flu shot. Those with minor flu symptoms can also be vaccinated, but it’s recommended that those who are severely ill wait until they recover. 

There is a great deal of misinformation about the flu vaccine that has been shared by non-medical sources. The influenza vaccine does not cause the flu. If you have any concerns, talk with your health care provider before deciding whether or not to get the vaccine.

The flu vaccine helps protect you, your loved ones and others around you from catching the flu virus. Don’t let the flu get you down this year – schedule an appointment to get your flu shot.


Debra Danzinger

<h3>Debra Danzinger, APRN</h3>

Debra Danzinger, APRN, is with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group– Primary Care in New Haven, Kentucky.

Your Holiday Gift Guide for Better Health

Holiday gift guide

Pick out the perfect gift for all your family members and friends.

Are your loved ones looking to shed some weight, enhance their spiritual health or just in need of a little self-care? The CHI Saint Joseph Health team came together to share their gift recommendations for everyone on your holiday list.

The Exercise Enthusiast

  • Running shoes
  • Activity tracker
  • Water bottle
  • Wireless headphones
  • Gift card for fitness classes or child care

“Give the gift that reiterates your loved ones’ goals to help them feel supported. You could also volunteer to join them at the gym or watch their child while they exercise,” says Billi Benson, BA, MED, exercise physiologist and office manager of The Weight Loss Center at Saint Joseph East.

“Select an activity tracker that is compatible with the receiver’s smartphone, and make sure it can track his or her most common activities, such as running, biking or swimming,” says Paula Fox, BSHA, RT(R)(CV)(ARRT), market director of cardiovascular operations at Saint Joseph Hospital and Saint Joseph East.

The Healthy Eater

  • Gift basket filled with fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Vegetable spiralizer
  • Gift card to a grocery store that specializes in produce

The Caregiver

  • Gift card for a restaurant, spa, respite care and/or cleaning services

“Caregivers often struggle to make time for themselves, so giving something that allows them to decompress and enjoy a little self-care is an excellent choice,” says Susan Carmical, MHA, FACHE, director of operations at VNA Health at Home, a service of CHI Saint Joseph Health.

The Spiritual Friend

  • Journals
  • Devotional books
  • Audiobook subscription
  • Plants
  • Gift card for a spiritual retreat or yoga classes

“A lot of spirituality is about creating the time and space to reflect, so we can help nourish our loved ones by providing them a venue for that meditative reflection,” says Rachel Holmes, MDIV, chaplain at Saint Joseph Berea.

Remember to always consult with your provider before beginning a new diet or exercise program. Don’t have a provider? Visit our online Provider Directory to find one near you.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

Detecting and Treating Diabetes Early Helps Prevent Serious Complications

Patient speaking with provider

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, a good opportunity to raise awareness of the disease. New cases of diabetes have more than tripled in the past 20 years in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has increased the need to provide information and education to the 30 million U.S. adults living with diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that disrupts the way your body turns food into energy. The disease is largely classified into two categories: type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, thereby causing blood sugar levels to rise. It typically develops in childhood or adolescence, but adults can be at risk of developing the disease. Type 1 diabetes develops over a few weeks to months with an abrupt onset of symptoms.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the kind most prevalent in Americans. It occurs when cells become insulin-resistant over time. This means the body makes insulin but the insulin does not work properly. This causes the body’s blood sugar levels to rise dramatically. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can develop slowly, and many people won’t show symptoms for years. This slow onset of insulin resistance is a treatable and reversible condition called prediabetes.


Prediabetes is also a common condition that occurs when blood sugar levels are much higher than average, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and 90 percent of those living with prediabetes are unaware they have it.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes monitoring

According to reports from the American Diabetes Association, over half a million adults in Kentucky are living with diabetes. Of these, over 108,000 do not yet know they have diabetes.

If left untreated diabetes can lead to heart attack, vision loss and kidney disease. This is why it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of diabetes and have regular check-ups with your doctor.

Some symptoms of diabetes include extreme unquenchable thirst, insatiable hunger, frequent urination, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, numb or tingling hands or feet, dry skin and wounds that heal more slowly than usual.  

Doctors can order blood tests to screen for and diagnose diabetes and prediabetes. These tests are typically inexpensive and are covered by most insurance policies. 

Diabetes Education and Resources

The most important step for treating diabetes or prediabetes is for individuals to receive education from reliable accredited sources about how to properly manage their disease. Receiving education about diabetes has been shown to substantially reduce the long-term effects of the disease and improve overall health.

The Certified Diabetes Educators and Registered Dietitians at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Diabetes and Nutrition Care pride themselves in their ability to empathize with their patients, recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing diabetes, and troubleshoot real world sustainable treatment plans for people with diabetes who come from all walks of life.

To learn more about how to receive accredited diabetes education, call 859.313.2393.

Candice Tufano, RD

Candice Tufano, RD is with CHI Saint Joseph Health – Diabetes and Nutrition Care.

Scan Led to ‘Scary Diagnosis’ of Lung Cancer, but Cancer Care Team Offers Hope

Cordia Parker

Cordia Parker said she has been in “perfect health” for 67 years. But when she started losing weight rapidly over the holidays in 2018 – even “when I ate everything that didn’t get me first” – she was a little concerned.

When she went for a routine physical, the long-time smoker asked for a lung scan after treatment for what she thought was bronchitis was not effective. When her primary care physician noticed shadows on the scan, she asked for a referral to Eliseo Colon, MD, CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Pulmonology. After a biopsy, Dr. Colon diagnosed her with small cell lung cancer on March 4, 2019.

She knew she wanted to seek treatment at CHI Saint Joseph Health. “Saint Joseph – that’s all I know,” she said. “If you’re not going to be well there, you’re not going to be well.”

Cordia had spent 43 years in various capacities working first at Saint Joseph Hospital, then for CHI Saint Joseph Health in the communications office, where she served as a telephone operator.

It was through her work that she knew about Scott Pierce, MD, CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center, and knew she wanted him to lead her care team.

“When I was sick, I wanted somebody I was familiar with, so I picked Saint Joe. My doctor recommended Saint Joe,” Cordia said.

She had, after all, received “a very scary diagnosis.”

“Dr. Pierce said, you’re going to be fine. I’m going to let you live long enough to be miserable,” Cordia said.

Dr. Pierce set out a chemotherapy and radiation plan built specifically for her. One of the chemotherapy medications would be too strong for her small body weight, so the cancer care team made some alterations. They also worked with Cordia as they advanced the treatment.

“I started out with chemo and, after the third round, I had no negative side effects,” Cordia said. “He said, let’s add radiation to it.”

Olivia Ball, MD, CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center, developed a radiation plan that entailed Cordia coming to the center every weekday for six weeks for 15-minute radiation treatments.

“It wasn’t really hard,” Cordia said. “She asked me about my skin – she was afraid of irritation. I didn’t get that, but the metal table was not a friend to my back, so I felt uncomfortable plenty of times.”

Staff at the cancer center made the treatments more than bearable. “They were good to explain what it was they needed to do and why,” Cordia said.

“I have a whole second family from cancer care,” Cordia said. “They are wonderful people. They have made themselves familiar with names, faces … and patients in the lobby get to know one another.”

As Cases of Diabetes Surge in Kentucky, a Simple Blood Test Can Tell if You’re At Risk

Checking blood glucose level

From 2000 to 2017, diagnosed diabetes in Kentucky adults nearly doubled from 6.5 percent to 12.9 percent. Kentucky ranks seventh highest in the U.S. for diabetes prevalence. More than 450,000 residents are currently living with diabetes, according to the 2019 Kentucky Diabetes Report.

The disease was the main reason for more than 10,400 hospitalizations and over 16,000 emergency department visits in 2017 alone. An estimated 147,500 adults are living with undiagnosed diabetes based on the national rate.

Getting your blood sugar checked regularly can detect diabetes and prediabetes before type 2 diabetes occurs.  

Prediabetes is a serious and normally symptomless health condition that occurs when the body’s blood sugar levels are abnormally high, but not quite high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. It is a major risk for type 2 diabetes. As of 2017, 10.2 percent of Kentucky adults had diagnosed prediabetes; 812,000 adults are estimated to have undiagnosed prediabetes. An estimated 1 in 3 adults have diagnosed or undiagnosed prediabetes.

Risk Factors

Certain factors can increase your risk for developing prediabetes or diabetes. These factors include:  

  • Obesity
  • Over age 45
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Little to no physical activity
  • Unhealthy diet and eating habits

Women who have had gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome are at a greater risk of developing prediabetes or diabetes. African-Americans, Hispanic and Latino Americans also have a higher chance of developing the disease.

Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment

Woman sitting at kitchen table

In recognition of National Diabetes Awareness Month, we urge those who have a family history of diabetes, or believe they are at risk of developing diabetes, to schedule a quick and easy blood sugar test with your physician. The test, called the Hemoglobin A1c, will let you know if you have prediabetes or diabetes.

Healthy lifestyle choices can help you prevent prediabetes and its progression to type 2 diabetes, even if diabetes runs in your family. Eating healthier foods, getting more exercise and losing weight can help reduce your risk for diabetes and prediabetes. 

If you or a loved one are living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, treatment is all about managing your disease. Regularly monitoring your blood sugar levels is the most important and effective way of staying healthy. A doctor can help you find your blood sugar target level to aim for and recommend important times to check your blood sugar levels. Replacing unhealthy foods in your diet with nutritional alternatives, along with daily exercise, will make managing the disease much easier, and will improve your overall well-being.

If you or a loved one are at risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, schedule an appointment for a blood test today with your physician or health care provider.

At CHI Saint Joseph Health Diabetes and Nutrition Care, registered dietitians and certified diabetes educators can help you learn how to prevent type 2 diabetes or live with and manage your type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes. Call 859.313.2393 for more information.

‘An Easy Decision’ to Stick with Saint Joseph for Cancer Care

Robb Rettie, MD

Every two weeks, Robb Rettie, MD, drives from his home in Danville to CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care in Lexington for treatment. He could access the treatment at a cancer care center in his hometown, but the hour-long drive to Lexington is worth it for Rettie.

“We knew Dr. (Scott) Pierce was excellent, so it wasn’t really a matter of searching around,” he said. “It was a matter of knowing who was really good at what they did and, of course, I’m very comfortable with Saint Joe’s care. So it was an easy decision to stick with Saint Joe and Dr. Pierce.”

It all started with the flu. When he never quite recovered from a bout a few years ago, Rettie, a physician with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Pediatrics in Nicholasville, had several tests, including a colonoscopy.

He was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer when he was just 49 – a few months shy of getting his first routine colonoscopy, which was recommended at age 50. The American Cancer Society now recommends regular screening for colorectal cancer begin at age 45.

About four weeks after surgery, he saw Dr. Pierce and the treatments at the Bob-o-Link Drive location began.

“The care at Saint Joe’s oncology – the people are so personable … they care,” he said. “I always tell folks, you can be treated, but you want folks who take care of you, who care about you, who care about your progress … the highs and the lows.”

He feels that every time he comes into the infusion center; the nurses always ask about how he is and reference something going on in his life that he might have mentioned during a previous visit.

“I still work part-time because I love what I do,” he said. “I went back and saw my first couple of toddlers and realized how much I love what I do … I have had more fun taking care of kids in the last year and a half because your perspective is completely different about what is important in life and what is valuable.”

That perspective comes from knowing his fate is intertwined with the diagnosis he received more than a year ago. His colon cancer spread to his liver and lungs “and it’s not going to go away, so eventually it’s going to do me in.”

The average length of survival with a diagnosis such as his is a year and a half to two years.

“I’m at a year and a half and still feel really good,” he said. “I’m an eternal optimist, so I can’t think of anything other than being around for a long time.”

That’s just who he is, he said.

“The way I look at it is, I’m going to die someday, but that’s one day out of thousands,” Rettie said. “I don’t tend to dwell on the inevitable final outcome because that’s really going to be a very small part of my life.”

His family inspires his positive outlook and will to fight. He and Yvonne, his wife of 30 years, have a daughter, Vickie, who just started college at Otterbein in Ohio where she is working toward a career in zoology.

“When I was diagnosed – it’s a pretty devastating diagnosis … it takes awhile to adjust to that,” he said. “My initial goal was just to get her into college. Now my goal is to see her graduate and to see her graduate from graduate school and then to retire …”

Meanwhile, he continues his treatments in Lexington and travels every three months to Houston because he may qualify for some potential clinical trials in the future.

“There’s good folks everywhere, but for us … there just wasn’t any other real consideration because we knew we were going to get great care, and we have.

“Would I have gone elsewhere if I felt like it was going to be beneficial to me? Absolutely,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in Saint Joe’s.”

Those with a History of Smoking Should Be Screened for Lung Cancer

Woman hiking in the woods

Smoking and lung cancer are a big problem nationwide. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the second highest smoking rate in the country, Kentucky  has the highest number of new lung cancer cases diagnosed each year. About 90 percent of all lung cancer cases are caused by smoking. More than 3,300 Kentuckians died from cancer caused by smoking in 2016 alone – a number that is on the rise.  

Early detection dramatically increases the success rates of lung cancer treatment. That’s why people with a history of smoking should schedule a lung cancer screening. As the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout nears this November and consideration of smoking is on the minds of many, it’s the perfect time to schedule your screening.

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Lung cancer can be difficult to detect, because there are virtually no symptoms until the disease reaches a dangerous stage. By the time it’s detected, lung cancer has often metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body. The sooner lung cancer is found, the more effective the treatment can be. When symptoms do appear, they might include:

  • Persistent coughing that doesn’t go away
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent feelings of exhaustion
  • Coughing up blood

Scheduling your screening

The best way to protect yourself from lung cancer is to schedule a screening. Lung cancer screenings can help detect the cancer before dangerous symptoms appear, when the disease is most treatable.

Watch the video below to hear from Hawa Edriss, MD, pulmonologist and intensivist with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group as she discusses the importance of lung cancer screenings.

We recommend that adults ages 55 and older with a history of smoking or frequent exposure to smoke get screened immediately. We also encourage former smokers who have quit smoking in the past 15 years to make an appointment for a screening.  

Doctors specializing in the lungs, called pulmonologists, will screen for, diagnose and treat lung cancer. They will likely use a noninvasive and painless screening procedure called a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan to detect any signs of lung cancer.

This scan allows the physician to examine different levels – or slices  – of the lung tissue at a time, which provides more accurate images of the lungs than a typical chest X-ray. With this attention to detail, the physician can identify the disease in its earliest stages and begin treatment right away.  

If you or a loved one is a smoker, schedule a quick and easy lung cancer screening today. Call 1.833.727.3362 now to schedule a low-dose CT lung scan at a CHI Saint Joseph Health location near you. 

Man on a Mission

James Rollins, MD with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group - Orthopedics

James Rollins, MD, has been with the CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Orthopedics for three years and practiced medicine for almost two decades. He was raised in the church, and he grew closer to God following his medical residency’s completion, entwining his faith with his career.

“I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, and one of his messages is to be a disciple,” Dr. Rollins said. “One way I can do that is through what I do for a living, which is taking care of people.”

Heeding the call

Dr. Rollins doesn’t just offer orthopedic care to patients — he often provides treatment as a member of the Post Clinic in Mount Sterling.

The Post Clinic provides primary care and dental services to people without the means to pay for health care.

“I run the clinic once a month, performing surgeries for free,” Dr. Rollins said. “I’m a Gideon as well, so I offer free Bibles to every patient I operate on and will pray with them. I’ve seen about 30 people come to Christ from that ministry.”

Dr. Rollins is also president of the board for Hope Hill, a faith-based organization that helps children and young adults recover from trauma and more.

At home and abroad

While Dr. Rollins has made a career out of helping people in his community, he also provides aid outside of his career — and outside of the country. He has traveled to three different countries on mission trips in the past decade: Haiti in 2011, Honduras in 2013 and Africa in 2017. Dr. Rollins performed 16 surgeries while in Africa.

“The first two trips were focused on building projects, whereas Africa was a medical mission,” Dr. Rollins said. “That one was the most influential for me, since I was able to go there and use my expertise to help people who walked 20 or 30 miles for care.”

Dr. Rollins plans to continue his volunteer work and encourages others to do the same.

“There are 80 different churches in Montgomery County, and they all go on missions,” Dr. Rollins said. “Talking to community leaders, the health department, local food coalitions and other organizations is a great way to get involved.”

The great oudoorsman

When not helping others, Dr. Rollins enjoys managing his 800-acre farm with his wife and their dog. He often takes their furry companion with him on hunting trips.

“My biggest passion outside of work and service is hunting,” Dr. Rollins said. “I’ve trained my dog to help me on duck, deer and turkey hunts.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Spring 2019 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

Going Swimmingly

Going Swimmingly

Aquatic therapy can provide benefits for patients they may not receive on solid ground.

For patients with arthritis, fibromyalgia or other health concerns that can make exercise difficult, aquatic therapy provides an opportunity to strengthen their bodies without the added pressure of gravity.

“The water’s buoyancy takes weight off the person, so they are able to move more freely to exercise, ” explained Kerry Lucas, PT, DPT, at Saint Joseph Park Physical Therapy. “The buoyancy also reduces pressure on the patient’s joints.”

Buoyancy does not equal less effective exercise, however. The water provides resistance, which helps patients strengthen their muscles while performing therapy. Patients work one on one with their therapist, and the benefits can be seen in and out of the water.

“I had one patient with arthritis so severe, she was unable to stand upright to walk,” Lucas said. “When we began working in the pool, she had much better posture. She was able to exercise, and now, she is much more mobile at home.”

Aquatic therapy classes are available at two locations: C.M. Gatton Beaumont YMCA and Legacy Reserve at Fritz Farm.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.