|Dr. Gaber and Melissa Paskvan|
The Story of Melissa Paskvan
In August of 2009, while mindlessly scratching an itch on her left side, Melissa found an abnormal lump in her left breast. Upon feeling the lump, her thoughts were immediately drawn to the frightening possibility of breast cancer. Two days later, Melissa was able to get into the Breast Care Center at Toledo Hospital for a mammogram. It came back negative.
That same day, Melissa automatically received an ultrasound of her breast. The ultrasound detected a cyst but the doctor was not concerned about a malignancy. Although the two screening tests had not detected any cancer, Melissa was not comfortable with or confident in the “all clear” diagnosis. Doubts continued to weigh heavily on her mind and heart. She continued to advocate for herself and requested that her doctors do an immediate biopsy that same day. Because she did not want to alarm her husband and family members, Melissa did not tell them about finding the lump and the need for these medical tests. Before she informed her loved ones, she wanted to wait to receive a definitive diagnosis that would put everyone’s mind at ease.
Two days after the biopsy, Melissa received the phone call that she had been dreading. Her primary care physician on the phone informed her the results of the biopsy were positive. Melissa had breast cancer. At age 41, she was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Action needed to be taken immediately. The challenging journey with breast cancer began.
Melissa quickly underwent the surgical knife and had a lumpectomy; then chemotherapy; then radiation. After the active treatment was over, Melissa started to develop short- term memory loss, experienced extreme fatigue, lost both of her jobs, was in a car accident and crushed her foot. She also suffered from residual pain from the surgical removal of lymph nodes. At this point in the journey, Melissa had completed active treatment but felt a strong sense of fear and uncertainty regarding if or when the cancer would return. She also suffered from a significant decline in her health and quality of life. She did not know where to turn for help.
Melissa states the Center is a place where she can go to get away, relax, get support, and surround herself with supporters and cancer survivors who understand what she is going through. Since late 2013, Melissa has attended art classes, book clubs, the Pink Sneaker walking club, and the grief support group. In addition she attends many of the weekly leadership meetings and has helped with the outreach breast health services that the Center provides at the Toledo PRIDE Festival. She recently assisted with President Gaber’s visit to the Center. President Sharon Gaber is UT’s new and first female president. Because of the Center and its programming and services, Melissa reports that she has started to find a “new normal” and has discovered a new motivation to live a healthy lifestyle. She is exercising more, eating healthier, and more health conscious.
Last month during Melissa’s annual mammogram, a benign calcification was detected. Considering her past experiences with screening mammograms, this result was unsettling to Melissa. Therefore, her doctor recommended she get a breast MRI since her last one was in 2012. However, Melissa could not afford the cost of the breast MRI. When Drs. Jordan and Thompson (Directors of the Center) heard about this dilemma, they contacted Melissa and informed her that a foundation entitled Lambie’s Legacy Foundation had given the Center a grant to help women in these types of situations. Therefore, with the help of Lambie’s Legacy funds, the Center was able to help Melissa pay for this MRI.
The MRI came back negative and everyone is celebrating this wonderful result. Thanks to the Lambie’s Legacy Foundation for helping the Paskvan family afford this important medical test. Melissa is now able to get back to her life of helping other survivors and being the best mother, wife, and friend that she can be!