There was nothing rehearsed or insincere about the thanks Dee Curtis gave to the staff of the Ashkari Breast Center at the Hudson Valley Hospital Center Thursday.
Curtis, a Yorktown resident who was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2011, fought back tears as she recounted the service she received from the hospital and how the hospital’s staff helped her through the ordeal.
“It’s still close,” Curtis said during a press conference at the breast center. “I’ve been cancer free for a year, but it doesn’t go away. It still stays with you. There’s always that fear....I think I appreciate people a lot more than I used to, especially those here that are working for you. You’d be surprised to know how many great people work here.”
The hospital held the press conference to announce a $150,000 grant the hospital was able to secure with help from state Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson. The grant will help to pay for equipment that will allow doctors at the Hudson Valley Hospital Center perform intra-operative radiation on women undergoing breast cancer surgery. The procedure will be available to patients starting the second week in November.
The only other nearby hospital that offers the treatment is St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Dobbs Ferry.
“This center is premier center with world class professionals,” Ball said. “Women in northern Westchester and this region will now be able to have that type of world class treatment without having to travel great distances. They will now be able to stay with their family and stay in the communities they love.”
“The Ashikari Breast Center at Hudson Valley Hospital Center offers women the best cancer care close to home,’’ said breast cancer surgeon Dr. Andrew Ashikari today at a press conference at the Hospital. “Now women who could benefit from intra-operative radiation don’t have to travel elsewhere to get it. This is a great addition to the Hospital and a victory for women with breast cancer.’’
Curtis had to travel for the intra-operative surgery because Hudson Valley Hospital Center didn’t provide the procedure during her diagnosis.
“I was going to have a mastectomy, but Dr. [Andrew] Ashikari said with this treatment, he could save my breast,’’ said Curtis who lives in Yorktown with her husband. “ I also had one less week of radiation, which was a good thing because if I had to go one more week, I wouldn’t have been able to stay in work. I was just that tired.’’
Intra-operative radiation allows patients to receive one dose of radiation while asleep during breast cancer surgery, instead of having to wait six-and-a-half weeks after surgery to have radiation. In higher risk patients, it is used to boost the surgical cavity with radiation to reduce the post-operation radiation to only five weeks.
Women who go through the treatment and develop a recurrence can then undergo a repeat lumpectomy and whole breast radiation, while those who get standard radiation and develop a recurrence are recommended to have a mastectomy.
Dr.Chika Madu will oversee the intra-operative procedure at the hospital.
John Federspiel, the hospital’s president, said the Hospital chose to use the grant money and invest an additional $413,000 to buy the intra-operative radiation equipment because it is committed to making the Hospital’s Cheryl R. Lindenbaum Cancer Center the destination of choice for cancer patients in the Hudson Valley.
“Cancer patients should not have to add extra travel to their already hectic lives during such a stressful time’’ said Federspiel. “The philosophy of our Cancer Center is to provide quality, comprehensive cancer care close to home. It should be no different when it comes to women who choose to have intra-operative radiation.’’