Lifestyle

Medical care, family's love whipped brain tumor

By DENICE MILHOLLAND

For the Mirror

In 1987, I was to take a journey that even my wildest dreams would not have conceived. It would begin and end at Swedish Medical Center.

One month after having completed a physically challenging bike ride (Seattle to Portland), I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I was 33 years old, happily married, physically fit and in a successful career. I had never been hospitalized in my life. Now, I was facing a very serious disease with a questionable outcome. My family immediately dropped what they were doing and came to my side. We were an entourage.

My journey began with meeting my cancer specialists (all with excellent references) and associated with Swedish Medical Center. First, I met my neurosurgeon, Dr. James Blue. He appeared confident, kind, and straightforward. He answered all of our questions (even some of my mom’s embarrassing questions). I was in good hands.

Then, I met my oncologist, Dr. Henry Kaplan. I love this man. No words can express the wonderful bedside manner he has with his patients. He is gentle, funny, caring, attentive and empathetic. He called me his “miracle patient.” I was in good hands.

Next, I met my radiation oncologist, Dr. James Eltringham. Though he appeared to be a little intimidating, very serious and down to business, I soon discovered he was a big, gentle bear who makes a “mean” cheesecake. I was in good hands.

I would be remiss to leave out an important team member of this dream team: Nursing. Though all were excellent, I had a favorite — Linda. She made me feel that I (and my family) were her priorities, kept me informed of what to expect with each procedure, held my hand through tears and fears and made my inpatient stays as pleasant as possible. I actually looked forward to seeing her.

Now, I can’t credit Swedish Medical Center with my entire recovery. I strongly feel that my loving family and friends were there to hold me up when I didn’t have the strength and kept me motivated. And my husband fed my internal spirit with an unconditional, intense love that made me fight to survive.

My journey has now gone full circle. I am healthy, have a beautiful 11-year-old girl and recently celebrated my 25th anniversary with my loving husband. I am proud to have celebrated my 10-year anniversary with being a member of Swedish. I felt compelled to give a part of me back to this center of excellence, which gave so much to me and my recovery process.

Thank you, Swedish.

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