Tania Lewis had one question for City of Hope breast cancer surgeon Lesley Taylor, M.D., after her mother Lynzine LaGrone’s lumpectomy. Well, maybe it was a second question, after confirming all had gone well.
“When will my mother be able to go to the casino?” asked Lewis.
At 95 years of age, LaGrone — Miss Lyn, to family and friends — is a dynamo, a woman who loves her gambling outings as well as daytime walks and nighttime activities that include karaoke, bowling and dancing. What she did not take a gamble on was her breast cancer treatment. For LaGrone and her daughter, City of Hope, with its focus on cancer care and a whole-person approach, was their top choice.
LaGrone felt a lump in her left breast in March 2016, when she was 93. She had let routine mammography lapse, she admits, because she assumed at her age it was no longer necessary (she had been told by a doctor at age 70 that annual mammography was not imperative).
After performing a biopsy, LaGrone's primary care physician diagnosed Stage 2 breast cancer. LaGrone and Lewis acted quickly. A recommendation for an oncologist from the primary care physician didn’t pan out — Lewis says it just wasn’t a good fit. She sought help from a friend who had recently had breast cancer, and through her they landed at City of Hope.
Mother and daughter, themselves a powerful duo, had another strong team guiding them at City of Hope. In addition to meeting with oncologist Daneng Li, M.D., LaGrone and Lewis learned that they should consult a breast surgeon: Enter Taylor.
She was fabulous,” said Lewis, “very caring, giving and knowledgeable, and she saw my mother as her own person, not just another patient.”
Rounding out the masterful medical roster were anesthesiologist Russell Gray, M.D., and cardiologist Kalyanasundaram Venkataraman, M.D., whose expertise was recommended because of LaGrone's age and history of cardiac episodes. This detail, in particular, impressed Lewis.
“It was a great team who had done their due diligence and asked prior history and made sure her heart could sustain the surgery,” said Lewis.
As impressed as LaGrone and Lewis were with City of Hope's comprehensive approach, the hospital technicians were equally impressed by the otherwise good health of LaGrone. After all of the initial examinations, including cardiac testing, one of the technicians asked what LaGrone ate (“Are you a vegetarian?”) because her results were sterling for a woman of 93.
“I’ve always been very active and watched what I eat,” said the indomitable Miss Lyn, who is a proponent of the everything-in-moderation philosophy.
After the lumpectomy, the next step was formulating a postsurgical regimen. Standard guidelines for treating breast cancer in elderly women do not exist; therefore, oncologist Li looked at factors such as LaGrone's postmenopausal status and relatively early disease stage at diagnosis and concluded that hormone therapy using oral anastrozole was an appropriate approach. Anastrozole is an aromatase inhibitor, a drug that slows or stops the production of estrogen needed for certain cancer cells to grow. Once a day, LaGrone takes a pill that has not interfered with her quality of life or caused any side effects.
LaGrone and Lewis describe their experience at City of Hope as phenomenal, beginning on day one, when they were welcomed at City of Hope through the ambassador program that assists newcomers, through surgery and treatment, to diligent follow-up that included monthly visits (one year after breast cancer surgery, LaGrone's mammogram results were negative, enabling her to reduce her visits to one per year).
It was a great privilege to participate in the care of Ms. LaGrone and learn from her — she models vitality, resilience, strength and wisdom,” said Taylor.
LaGrone continues to move happily through life, whether she’s playing the piano or doing her own laundry at the independent senior center where she resides, or spending cherished time with her daughter, son-in-law and grandson.
As for the casino? One week after surgery, Miss Lyn was there!