Stacy Carr: Staying positive
Grace is one of those qualities that is difficult to define, yet we know it when we see it. It can mean many things, including elegance, dignity and poise. Some people simply personify grace, and Stacy Carr is one of those people.
Stacy, 44, lives in Castle Shannon with her husband James; they have two children, Kylie, 20, and Christopher, 9, and two dogs, Pepper and Coco, who are full-fledged family members. A few years ago, Stacy found a hard lump in her chest while she was snuggling with her son; she saw her gynecologist immediately. A mammogram and ultrasound revealed the presence of five breast tumors. It was an aggressive kind of cancer and she was treated with chemotherapy and underwent bilateral mastectomies. Since then, Stacy has been taking daily medication and a monthly injection.
In April of last year, she began experiencing pain in her knee. Assuming it was a musculoskeletal injury, she saw an orthopedic surgeon who ordered a PET (positron emission tomography) scan. The surgeon ordered a full-body scan because of Stacy’s cancer history. It was a potentially lifesaving decision: the PET scan showed increased uptake in the breast area. The breast cancer was back.
“It was fortunately a localized lesion, in exactly the same spot as before,” Stacy says. “I saw St. Clair breast surgeon Raye J. Budway, M.D., and she did a simple lumpectomy. I was able to go to work the next day; I’m an operations manager for a mortgage company. In addition to the lumpectomy, I am having both chemo and radiation. I’m still receiving the radiation, every day for 30 days.”
Stacy is a young woman and a mother who has had to endure breast cancer treatment twice in just four years. It would be understandable if she expressed anger or even bitterness at the unfairness of this, but Stacy came quickly to a place of graceful acceptance. “Having breast cancer was harder the first time,” she explains. “This time my attitude is, ‘I did it before; I can do it again.’ I have a positive attitude and I leave it in God’s hands. I have attained peace. It’s not easy; the effects of the chemo were more difficult to deal with than the surgery. But they gave me a pre-chemo cocktail that helped a lot. I experienced a lot of lethargy, but I still managed to work the entire time. Keeping busy was helpful. My husband and I decided that we would keep things as normal as possible for our children, and just live our regular lives. He takes care of the kids and my mother, Susan Fleischman, takes me to my appointments. My daughter is in school for nuclear medicine technology, so she understands what’s going on. I think it’s essential that you stay positive, keep living and don’t let cancer dictate your life.”
Stacy has surrounded herself with love and support that helps her maintain her hope and positivity. That network consists of her husband and kids; her mother and her stepfather Barry, who “keep me grounded”; and her beloved dogs. “My dogs are a big help! They are actually getting me through this,” she claims. “They seem to sense that I’m sick and that I need a lot of love and attention. They are both at my side constantly.”
Soft-spoken and thoughtful, Stacy stays focused on the blessings in her life, including having two healthy, happy children. She has deep gratitude for the care she has received, especially from the physicians who have managed her treatment. “I’m lucky to have doctors who are so aware and caring; they treat you like you’re special. In my first visit for radiation, my radiation oncologist Robert S. Werner, M.D. (Chief of Radiation Oncology at St. Clair), spent two hours with me. He explained everything clearly and I could feel that he really cared about me. And I love Dr. Budway. She’s a phenomenal person and doctor. She gives you all the time you need, so you never feel rushed. There’s no textbook case and she explains everything about your unique cancer; she wants to be sure you understand. Dr. Budway is deeply aware of all the ramifications of a cancer diagnosis and treatment; she knows there’s a whole person, with a whole life, behind the diagnosis and treatment, and that person has to live with the scars.”
After having endured two breast cancer journeys, Stacy lives with some scars, for certain; but she also has wisdom to share with others facing breast cancer or any other cancer. “A cancer diagnosis overwhelms you,” she says. “It’s easy to be passive, to just accept what you are told, because you’re in shock and you may feel numb. I advise people that they should never be afraid to get a second opinion; you have a right to one. Dr. Budway was my second opinion and I thank God for her. She made me feel at peace. I’ll be seeing her for the rest of my life.
“I also encourage people to go to St. Clair Hospital. I love that hospital; it’s where my kids were born. It’s the perfect hospital: it’s modern and it has all the new technology. I received excellent care from everyone. I have Highmark insurance and was a bit worried when I first saw a sign at the Cancer Center and it referenced the affiliation with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. But the St. Clair Hospital Cancer Center and St. Clair Hospital accept all insurances, and I have had zero problems.”
ROBERT S. WERNER, M.D.
Dr. Werner is Chief of Radiation Oncology. He earned a medical degree at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He then completed a residency in radiation oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City. Dr. Werner is board-certified by the American Board of Radiology Therapeutic Radiology, and is affiliated with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. His practice at St. Clair Hospital is in-network for all major insurers.
To contact Dr. Werner, please call 412.502.3920.
RAYE J. BUDWAY, M.D.
Dr. Budway specializes in breast surgery and general surgery, and serves as the Director, St. Clair Hospital Breast Care Center. Dr. Budway earned her medical degree at Hahnemann University Medical School, Philadelphia, and completed a residency in general surgery at The Western Pennsylvania Hospital. She then completed a fellowship in surgical critical care at UPMC. She previously served as the Site Program Director for the Allegheny General Hospital General Surgery Residency Program, and Director of the Surgical Breast Disease Program and Surgical Intensive Care at West Penn Hospital. She is board-certified in surgical critical care and general surgery. She is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and serves on the Fellowship’s Commission on Cancer. Dr. Budway practices with St. Clair Medical Services.
To contact Dr. Budway, please call 412.942.7850.