In Good Hands (and Stylish Boots)

By Lori Russell

Decked out in a stylish pair of fringed suede boots, Debbie Stroud shows off the latest pictures of her grandson to the nurses at MCMC’s Celilo Cancer Center during a recent chemotherapy treatment.

“He is good medicine,” said Stroud, who still gets down on all fours to play horsey with her only grandchild, despite undergoing multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a lumpectomy to remove cancerous breast tissue. A mother of two, Stroud has been married to her high school sweetheart, Ron Stroud, for 39 years.

She was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in June 2017 after an abnormal mammogram, but attributes her positive outlook to her Christian faith, sense of humor and strong support system.

“I just knew it was going to be okay and I would have the support I needed,” she said. “And I do.”

Stroud receives comprehensive cancer services and treatment at MCMC’s nationally certified Breast Center. The program provides a coordinated, team approach to care.

Before beginning treatment, patients meet with providers from medical oncology, radiation therapy and surgical oncology, said Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator Melodi Johnson. This allows patients to learn the most current information about treatment options and side effects, so they can make the best choice for their situation.

Johnson also helps guide and support patients throughout the decision-making and treatment process.

“I spend time with the patient during their consult visits, in the infusion room, and on the phone or by whatever method the patient desires, “Johnson said. “We also have social workers who get involved to whatever level the patient needs.”

Stroud praised the Breast Center team who have supported her through diagnosis and treatment.

“The Breast Center at Celilo is amazing,” Stroud said. “This is a state-of-the-art facility, but that only goes so far. This is also a loving and compassionate place with a holistic approach to healthcare. They want you to be as close to normal as you can.”

For Stroud, normal meant continuing to work fulltime and spend time with her family, friends and church community during treatment.

“At my first appointment with the team, I said I needed to schedule my treatment around a mother-daughter trip to Hawaii I had planned,” she said. “It was too important to miss.”

Timing was also critical for Dr. Caitlin McCarthy, who was due to deliver her first child within the month. One of three surgeons at the MCMC Surgical Clinic, Dr. McCarthy has specialized training in breast ultrasound, biopsy and oncoplastic surgical techniques.

The two met several times before Stroud’s lumpectomy. Stroud is enthusiastic about the surgeon who answered her questions and calmed her fears.

“Dr. McCarthy is the bomb,” Stroud said. “The morning of my surgery I asked her how the baby was doing. She said, ‘She’s quiet. She knows we are working.’”

After healing from surgery, between rounds of chemotherapy Stroud hopped a plane to Hawaii where she and her daughter enjoyed snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding.

“I didn’t have any hair,” she laughs, “but I knew it was something we needed to do together.”

Stroud begins radiation therapy in early 2018 and will continue to follow up regularly with Dr. McCarthy and her other physicians in the future.

“It seems like God has handpicked these people for me,” she said. “I just knew I was in good hands. I haven’t lost an ounce of sleep though all of this.”

Side Bar to Story

Dr. Caitlin McCarthy

Dr. Caitlin McCarthy is a board-certified surgeon at Mid-Columbia Medical Center. One of three general surgeons at the MCMC Surgical Clinic, McCarthy has specialized training in breast ultrasound, biopsy and oncoplastic surgical techniques, which combine the best cancer surgery with an aesthetically-pleasing outcome.

The Columbia Gorge was a natural fit for Dr. McCarthy, who grew up in a small town in Wyoming, and developed a love for the Northwest while attending medical school in Seattle.

Dr. McCarthy is an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys horseback riding, hiking, white water rafting, skiing, and traveling. She joined MCMC in 2015, after relocating to the Gorge with her husband to be closer to family.

A general surgeon, her special interests are breast surgery for cancer and benign disease, as well as minimally invasive laparoscopy, which includes foregut (stomach) antireflux procedures, colorectal procedures, gallbladder and more. She is also trained in thyroid and parathyroid disease and is working toward an advanced certification for breast imaging, biopsy and partial breast radiation