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Susan Malik-Kelly – Breast Cancer Patient Story

Susan Malik-Kelly – Breast Cancer

Susan Malik-Kelly knows the value of trusting one's family and friends. Last November, she felt a lump in her breast. She was self-employed as a caregiver at the time, and she did not have health insurance. “Everybody told me to go get it checked out,” she says. She knows the importance of trusting one's instincts as well. “I had this funny feeling,” she recalls. “I knew I needed to get myself taken care of.”

Susan got the insurance she needed in January and, in February, went to the Oakbrook Commons location of Arnold Palmer Medical Oncology, a partnership of Excela Health and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma and chose John Waas, DO, a doctor of internal medicine who also specializes in medical oncology and hematology, as her physician. “I knew when I was diagnosed that he was the doctor I wanted,” says Susan. That's because Dr. Waas had cared for her mother nine years previously. “I just think the world of him,” she adds.

Susan's mother eventually died as a result of an aneurysm—not of breast cancer. In fact, Susan is the only person in her family with breast cancer, which made her diagnosis surprising. When she met with Dr. Waas, she handed him a photo of her late mother, and he and the entire staff remembered her. She also showed him the thank-you note her mother had received after sending Dr. Waas a gift to mark the birth of his little girl. “My mom was one of a kind; she saved everything,” says Susan. “Dr. Waas remembered that his wife had written the note. It all brought back such good memories.”

After a double mastectomy with expanders, Susan began chemotherapy in June 2015. Her treatments are tapering down, and she is looking forward to regaining the energy she lost at the beginning of her treatment. Her connection with Dr. Waas is still strong.

“I look at this journey as a blessing,” says Susan. “Before, I was uptight about a whole lot of little things. Those things don't bother me now.” She says her breast cancer has put her life in perspective, and now she measures the importance of life's challenges by a different yardstick. “Now, I ask myself whether this will matter in five years. I take every day as it comes,” Susan says.