Sandy Burkart, Breast Cancer Patient
Sandy Burkart’s surgeon mentioned twice that Sandy should think carefully about radiation therapy for her breast cancer. At the time, Sandy didn’t know what she meant, but an online search led her to information about potential damage to the heart and lungs from traditional radiation. She looked for different options and discovered proton therapy.
“Proton therapy was an excellent choice for Sandy because it has the potential to lead to fewer long-term side effects, particularly to the heart. Since we expect Sandy to be a long-term survivor of breast cancer this is important,” says Elizabeth M. Nichols, MD, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
After learning about proton therapy, Sandy called the Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC). She spoke with the concierge team, who helped her find a place to stay as she lives two hours from MPTC. She also spoke to the finance team, who helped her figure out treatment coverage under her healthcare plan.
In the spring of 2017, she packed her bags for a 5 week stay at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in Baltimore. Each day, she came to MPTC for treatment and returned to the lodge to work from her laptop. She handled the treatments well and was able to keep up with her accounting business from Baltimore.
“It was wonderful – the best experience I’ve had medically,” Sandy says. “The staff talk and joke with you, they constantly keep you updated. Totally different from other medical experiences.”
“Dr. Nichols takes time to listen to me and really remembers every detail, she knows my chart inside and out,” Sandy adds.
Sandy was by herself at Hope Lodge, but she made friends there, and her husband came to visit a few times during her treatment. The MPTC concierge team helped Sandy and her husband find fun restaurants to try for their date nights in the Inner Harbor. For the weekends, the clinical team moved Sandy’s Friday treatments to early in the day so that she could spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday at home with her daughters.
Sandy celebrated her last day of treatment by ringing the bell with her family. MPTC surprised her daughters with t-shirts that say “My Mom is My Superhero!”
Today, Sandy is back home, enjoying her favorite activities such as bargain hunting, Bible study and exercise. Her advice for others is “You need to research things. I was never told about proton therapy, I had to search for it myself, and that is how I found MPTC.”