Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Micky Hale Smith

I am the first person in my family to have breast cancer. It was discovered during my annual mammogram and was quite a shock. Cancer would have been unwelcome news under any circumstances, but I was within two months of completing my graduate degree and didn’t want to get off track. As a part-time student for three years, while working full-time, I was anxious to finish my studies.

I had a lumpectomy shortly after my diagnosis. Then I saw Doug Arthur, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Massey. He told me about a new national clinical study he was leading that provides treatment in five days, rather than the traditional six-and-a-half weeks.

The treatment, brachytherapy, uses a catheter to deliver radiation seeds to the tumor site to target any remaining cancerous cells. This particular study is examining the radiation delivery using a device called Contura™ as a potential improvement over the standard Mammosite™ device for breast cancer brachytherapy.

Being on the clinical study provided a schedule that was less disruptive to my other goals and commitments and also gave me the opportunity to provide data that could be of benefit to subsequent patients. The clinical team worked hard to help me attain my graduation goal, and everything fell into place beautifully. It felt as if we were all working together to simultaneously achieve two enormous goals. I’m so glad to have received my care downtown at Massey. It was easy to get to, and the free valet parking was very helpful. The culture was warm and friendly; nothing like the imposing place I had imagined.

I couldn’t have asked for a better experience under such stressful circumstances. My prognosis is great and I completed my degree only three weeks later than originally planned, thanks to my family, my friends and my great team at Massey.