A patient's story

patient story alana kathy

"I related to her very much," says patient Kathy Willis (left) about procedure scheduler and fellow breast cancer patient Alana Werbowski.

Alana Werbowski may be a procedure scheduler in the Maple Grove Cancer Center. But, to Kathy Willis, she's an inspiration.

Kathy, 64, was so moved by a Fairview mailer that featured a story about Alana, who faced her fear of pain to get a mammogram and undergo breast cancer treatment, she switched her cancer care provider.

'I have to meet this lady'

Diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of July last year, Kathy underwent a mastectomy in August. Her doctor at another health care system recommended 18 sessions of chemotherapy, despite not finding any evidence of cancer after the surgery.

Confused about the care plan, Kathy requested a second meeting with the doctor but was told she would have to wait more than a month for a follow-up visit.

“I was crying; I was upset,” Kathy says. “The next day in the mail, I got this beautiful brochure from Fairview. I can’t tell you what that did for me. I read Alana’s story and thought, ‘Wow, I have to meet this lady.’ I called over there on a Wednesday, and they got me in on Friday.”

During her first visit, she got to meet Alana.

“She came to check in for her first visit. I turned around and her husband said, ‘Yep, that’s her!’” Alana remembers.

“They came over and chatted with me a bit. She told me she appreciated my story, that she felt exactly the same way I did and, once she read about me, she knew she had to come in.”

‘Now, I’m going to be in good hands’

In her story, titled “Face Your Fears,” Alana shares how her fear of pain stood in the way of her getting a regular mammogram. At age 59, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. After four rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, she is now cancer-free.

“I related to her very much,” says Kathy, who was diagnosed with fibroid tumors in 1985 and assumed that was the cause of a lump in her breast last summer. “I was in the same situation. I started to cry and I thought, ‘This lady has the same problem I had—she kind of let it go for a while, but I shouldn’t.’”

Much to her delight, when Kathy called to schedule her first appointment at Fairview, Alana was the scheduler who answered the phone.

“She was just so nice and got me set up. It was so different from how I was used to being treated,” Kathy says. “It made me feel so good, so relaxed. I thought, ‘Now, I’m going to be in good hands’—and I am!”

World-class care, close to home

Kathy is now undergoing chemotherapy treatment and loving her care at Fairview. Not only is the location a quick 12-minute drive from her home, but she feels deeply connected to her care team.

“They just make me feel so good,” she says. “They even got me to quit smoking. I’m so thankful I found this place. It’s first-class, so relaxing. I can’t tell you how much this place means to me.”

For Alana, knowing her story made such a difference in a patient’s life is, “amazing. I was thrilled that it touched somebody.”
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