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.”