“I can’t say enough good things about them,” said LeMire, a survivor of both ovarian cancer and peritoneal mesothelioma. “They are a compassionate, caring family of people who see you as a whole person – not just a cancer Patient. When I walk into the Cancer Center that’s how I feel, that’s how they make me feel.”
LeMire was a 45-year-old single mother of three when she was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer in November 2012. Two years later, while the ovarian cancer was in remission, LeMire was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Meanwhile, in December 2012—just after she underwent surgery for the ovarian cancer—LeMire’s youngest daughter, Shelby, who was 16 at the time, was found to have a malignant melanoma on her head.
“People can hardly believe it,” she said. “It’s such a horrific story. Shelby and I were undergoing chemotherapy at the same time.”
LeMire, a Registered Nurse, had worked for years in a hospital emergency department and pediatrics. She married her current husband, Steve, about two years ago, while she was undergoing treatment. They moved to Beaufort, S.C. last summer.
Denise LeMire expected medical professionalism from the staff at the Sparrow Cancer Center. But the level of compassion she found there still surprises her.
LeMire’s relationship with the Sparrow Cancer Center began with what she described as “very vague, random, not-serious symptoms.” One of her fellow Nurses prompted her to see her obstetrician, who ordered a CAT scan but couldn’t identify the cause of LeMire’s abdominal pain and eventually referred her to the Sparrow Cancer Center.
“I made an appointment,” LeMire said “and the minute that I met my oncologist he was very decisive and he knew right then and there that I needed surgery … and I was in surgery one week later.”
LeMire recalled waking up after the surgery and overhearing the nurses talking about a port that had been implanted in her stomach.
“As a Nurse, I knew it was for chemotherapy…My oncologist came in and he sat at my bedside and explained to me that I had late-stage ovarian cancer. He explained that he had gotten most of the cancer during the surgery but I would need treatments with chemotherapy and he was very confident that there would be a 100 percent cure with the treatments. He explained all the details and everything I would go through for the next six months.”
LeMire would receive 18 chemotherapy treatments.
One of the things she particularly liked about her treatment was that Sparrow assigned her her “own personal Nurse.”
“So my Nurse and I formed a very personal relationship. Because I was so scared, it was such a blessing to know that I was going to see her every time. Of course, the other Nurses came in … so I got to know all of them, but mostly it was one-on-one with my primary nurse.
That’s a very important thing because I think that cancer Patients are very different than any other Patients … I mean we deal with life and death situations …”
LeMire’s ovarian cancer was in remission for 18 months when a PET scan revealed the mesothelioma. Her father, who was exposed to asbestos in his work, died of the disease. She suspects there might be a connection. LeMire went through more surgery. Her spleen was removed, as well as some portions of other organs. She went through nine more months of chemotherapy and other treatment at the Sparrow Cancer Center.
Both cancers are now in remission and LeMire considers herself a “one-year survivor.” “The Sparrow staff saved my life twice,” she said. Meanwhile, Shelby, who underwent treatment in Ann Arbor and in Houston, Texas, is a “two-year survivor.”
LeMire’s advice to cancer Patients: “Never, ever give up. And believe that God has your back. God has a plan … Hold onto hope, have faith and expect miracles because they can happen.”