Breast Cancer Survivor’s Tale of ‘Consistent, Compassionate Care’ — Even During COVID-19
ELK GROVE, Calif. – Pamela Randall’s breast cancer journey began with her diagnosis in June 2018.
Her physician—Joyce Eaker, M.D., who recently retired from Sutter Medical Group—called her after the cancer removal surgery with the pathology report. That’s when Randall, a global workforce consultant who lives in Elk Grove, Calif., learned the road ahead would be difficult, including a double mastectomy, 10 rounds of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation.
“It was like she was talking to a family member,” Randall says. “What she told me was, ‘I didn’t want anyone else to call you with this news.’ I’d never heard of a doctor with that kind of commitment. She was someone to lean on, someone who was reassuring and kind.”
Mastectomy & Treatment
To help manage her appointments and clinician communications, Randall relied on My Health Online, Sutter’s online patient portal, and the medical staff who cared for her. Dr. Eaker performed her double mastectomy, while Lynne Hackert, M.D., performed the first step in her breast reconstruction, placing the tissue expanders at the time of her mastectomy.
At Sutter Cancer Center, Randall’s Sutter Medical Group oncologist, Nitin Rohatgi, M.D., “was reassuring, clear, comforting, direct and knowledgeable,” she says.
For Randall, the hardest part of the journey was undergoing daily radiation, five days a week for five weeks. But she says her Sutter Medical Foundation radiation oncologist, Carlin Hauck, M.D., understood the emotional strain and connected her with Sutter’s integrative health specialists, who taught her meditation and breathing techniques to use before every treatment.
Randall’s radiation treatments ended in May 2019. She had to wait a year before reconstructive surgery due to tissue damage caused by the radiation.
Reconstructive Surgery During COVID-19
Seeking medical treatment in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic meant taking extra steps to continue her care.
She met by video visit with her California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) reconstructive surgeon, Gabriel Kind, M.D., who would perform her DIEP flap procedure. In a DIEP flap procedure, tissues and blood vessels are taken from the abdomen to repair areas of the breast tissue that have been severely damaged.
On instruction from her CPMC team, Randall, her son and her boyfriend received COVID tests and isolated themselves before her July 6 surgery. At CPMC’s Davies campus, where Randall’s nearly 10-hour surgery was performed, staff requested that she go to pre-op alone, without her boyfriend, to minimize any possibility of exposing patients to COVID.
“They weren’t taking any chances,” Randall says. “They were keeping COVID out of their facility. That gave me the confidence to give my boyfriend a kiss and go up alone.”
After the surgery, she spent five days in the hospital recovering. Now Randall feels like she’s getting better day by day.
During her time at CPMC, she says, several nurses confided in her that they’d had the same procedure done.
“They said, ‘I was where you are. You’re doing great. You’ve got this. You’re in good hands.’
“And I was, all the way through.”