By Zandy Dudiak, Communications coordinator
Lisa Murphy, a child-adolescent/transitional age service coordinator, rang the bell at Mon Valley Hospital on August 20, the day she completed the last of 16 rounds of radiation to treat her breast cancer.
The radiation treatments were faster and easier this time around, compared to when she had them at age 15 after being diagnosed with Hodgkins disease, a type of lymphoma (blood cancer).
“When I was 15, I was there pretty much all day,” Lisa recalls. “Now, I was in and out of the facility in 15 minutes.”
She scheduled her appointments at 8 a.m. at a facility across the street from her home, allowing her to make it to work at Reedsdale Center on those days. Her dedication to the persons she serves during her own difficulties speaks volumes to the kind of person Lisa is, despite what life throws at her. And it has thrown a few challenges her way.
After overcoming Hodgkins lymphoma, Lisa faced her next big challenge at age 29, when she delivered her son prematurely, only later to find out that it was her congestive heart failure that caused his early birth.
Eight years passed before doctors diagnosed Lisa with cardiomyopathy. She had a pacemaker/defibrillator installed in her chest.
Having the unit near her breast—and suffering through the pain of having mammograms with the device involved—gave her a reason to avoid the annual routine screenings for breast cancer.
Around Easter this year, something didn’t feel right. Lisa finally scheduled a mammogram that showed two lumps in her left breast. One was benign but a biopsy showed the second lump was malignant.
“I pretty much had an idea something was going on,” Lisa says.
About the same time, her pacemaker started beeping, indicating it was time to install a new device. After her lumpectomy on a Thursday, she had a new pacemaker installed above her right breast the next Tuesday. She was able to complete her surgeries using only PTO days.
“We needed everything to heal so I could start the radiation treatment,” Lisa says.
Her treatments began a month later. The only side effects that Lisa felt were fatigue and that her skin started to burn near the end of the sessions. She has to take a hormone treatment for the next five years to stop estrogen from going to her breast.
Lisa admits to being “a little unmotivated” since completing the round of treatment. Lisa credits her manager, Diane Johnson, and supervisor, Brian Milligan, with their patience as she works on getting back up to speed.
“Overall, things are going well,” Lisa adds. “Brian and Diane have been so positive and supportive.”
Diane says Lisa’s optimism helped her be supportive of her during her surgeries and treatments.
“Lisa told me that she had cancer and from day one she had a plan to fight and be cured of the disease,” Diane says. “She planned to work through treatment and I am so happy and proud of the strength and courage she has shown.”
Brian says Lisa is an inspiration to all who know her.
“She fought this head on and continued to come to work throughout the entire time to ensure the families she works with were not affected,” he continues. “She arrived every day with a smile on her face and a fire in her heart. No one who did not know what was going on, would have ever known the struggles she was enduring. We are absolutely blessed to have her as part of our Mercy family.”
Lisa encourages others, including colleagues, to be proactive with their medical care, to advocate for themselves, and to see their primary care physician annually. Since her bout with breast cancer, she says she finds herself being a “little more aggressive” in advocating for screenings for the persons she serves.
Lisa credits her boyfriend, father, brother, uncle, friends, and especially her son, for helping her through her recent medical issues.
Lisa’s son, who is on the autism spectrum, also has been her inspiration. After weighing in at only 1 pound, 10 ounces at birth, he’s now 24 and taller than Lisa.
She recalls at his first Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for a learning support class in second grade, she told the educators, “Don’t get used to him being here.” He was out of the class by fifth grade.
“He’s overcome a lot,” Lisa says proudly. “He worked pretty hard to get caught up to where he should be. He’s very kind and very positive and loving.”
Lisa also draws on her strong faith.
“When I had my son, I gave his situation up to God,” Lisa says. When it came to her breast cancer diagnosis, “Again, I gave it up to God. Last and most important is my faith in God in knowing what He was doing. In the end, He doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.”