Beaufort Memorial’s Living Well Blog brings health and wellness to Lowcountry living.

Cancer Care Close to Home

Posted by Cancer Team on Jun 3, 2016 1:37:41 PM

In the first six years Carole Kiessling lived on Lady’s Island, she must have driven past the Beaufort Memorial Keyserling Cancer Center in Port Royal 100 times, barely noticing the brick and stucco building on the corner of Ribaut Road and North Paris Avenue. But in the spring of 2015, when the 74-year-old was diagnosed with uterine cancer, she couldn’t have been more grateful the Keyserling Cancer Center was there, less than 15 minutes from her home.

“It made a world of difference,” says Kiessling, affectionately known as “Cookie” to her friends. “It was so much easier getting my chemotherapy and radiation treatment in town rather than driving all the way to Charleston.”

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Being able to stay close to her family during treatment meant the world to Carole.

Originally from Virginia, Kiessling and her husband, Bob, moved to Beaufort in 2009 after spending 30 years in Chicago. They had never even heard of the historic seaport city until their younger daughter’s husband was transferred to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. “We came here on vacation to visit them and really liked the area,” Kiessling says.

About the time the couple was getting ready to retire, their daughter and her husband were looking to move to a bigger house to accommodate their growing family. The Kiesslings decided to buy their house in the Royal Pines neighborhood and make Beaufort their new home. Bob loved the idea of being able to walk to a golf course. Cookie looked forward to spending time with her daughter and two grandkids.

They were living their dream retirement until Kiessling was diagnosed with stage 3 uterine cancer.

Time to See a Doctor

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For more than a year, Kiessling had been having urinary issues. “I had to go more, but I attributed it to my age,” she recalls. “I became familiar with every restroom in every store in town.” She finally went to her primary care physician. He ran a urine culture and treated her for a bladder infection. But the problems continued. And then she began seeing a tinge of blood in her urine. “It went away for months and I wasn’t feeling bad, so I didn’t worry about it,” she says.

But eventually the symptoms became more severe. At that point, her daughter got her an appointment with Beaufort Memorial gynecologist Eve Ashby, D.O. “My standard practice is to evaluate new-onset urinary symptoms not only with a physical exam, but with a radiologic study,” Ashby says. A CT scan showed a thickening of the uterine lining. In addition, Kiessling’s blood work came back with elevated levels of cancer antigen 125, a protein found in some cancer cells. Ashby referred her to a gynecologic oncologist in Charleston, who recommended she have a hysterectomy. A biopsy of her uterus revealed cancer. Kiessling would need months of chemo and radiation therapy.

When Convenience Counts

The physician wanted her to have the treatment in his office. Recognizing the hardship that daily trips to Charleston would create for her parents, Kiessling’s daughter Susie Siegel asked the doctor if her mother could be treated at the Keyserling Cancer Center in Port Royal. “Susie told him that we were in our 70s and the trip to Charleston would be grueling for us,” Kiessling recalls. “I’m so glad she spoke up; it was so much easier having it done close to home.”

Majd Chahin, M.D., a board-certified medical oncologist at Beaufort Memorial Medical Oncology and the medical director of Oncology Services for BMH, recommended a sequential course of treatment that started with three rounds of chemotherapy followed by several weeks of daily radiation and another three rounds of chemo. “The sandwich approach has been shown to offer the maximum benefit,” says Chahin, who has more than 20 years’ experience in cancer treatment. “It enhances the effects of the radiation.”

To reduce the risk of complications and make it easier to administer the chemotherapy, a port was surgically implanted in Kiessling’s chest. The outpatient procedure was performed at the hospital by BMH general surgeon Tim Pearce, M.D. A month after her hysterectomy, Kiessling began the chemo treatments at Keyserling’s infusion center.

“The chemo is administered every three weeks to give the body time to recover from the medication,” Chahin explains. “Each session takes about three hours.” The radiation therapy also was administered over a period of time, allowing the body to absorb the doses without serious side effects.

“Everything was wonderful,” Kiessling emphasizes. “I cannot say enough about the doctors and staff at the Keyserling Cancer Center. They always asked how I was feeling. They take a real interest in their patients’ well-being.”

Comprehensive Cancer Treatment

Through its affiliation with MUSC, the 25,000-square-foot Beaufort Memorial Keyserling Cancer Center offers medical oncology and radiation oncology—as well as a full range of associated services and clinical trials—under one roof. Click here to learn more.

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