Quincy Reporter

Quincy Reporter

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

BLESSING HEALTH SYSTEM: Teacher learns it takes teamwork to treat cancer


By Press release submission | Nov 9, 2019

Health event recap 01

Blessing Health System issued the following announcement on Nov. 7.

Shari Kirtlink loved her career as a pre-kindergarten teacher at Carpenter’s Kids, a program of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Hannibal. She worked there for 12 years.

“You can make such a difference in their lives,” Shari said of her students.

All of a sudden, it was her students and their families making a difference in the 57-year-olds life, wearing “Team Shari” shirts and praying for her regularly after she had to leave teaching because of lung cancer that spread to her brain.

Shari also looked to the Blessing Cancer Center to make a difference in her life.

“I told her, ‘Don’t give up. We can treat you, step-by-step,’” said Mark Khil, MD, one of the Blessing Cancer Center’s board-certified radiation oncologists.

Treating cancer with teamwork

Dr. Khil, Mohammed Memon, MD, Blessing Physician Services medical oncologist, and the Blessing Cancer Center team went quickly to work. The two tumors in Shari’s brain required immediate attention to reduce the risk of brain damage. She was treated with stereotactic radiosurgery in Blessing’s nationally-accredited Radiation Therapy department of the Blessing Cancer Center. This is a non-surgical radiation therapy treatment that delivers precisely-targeted radiation in a high dose to tumors while avoiding healthy tissue surrounding the tumors. Shari required one, 20-minute treatment. The brain tumors began to shrink as a result and continue to shrink.

With her brain healing, Shari was then able to undergo simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments for her lung cancer.

“Within six weeks she experienced almost complete regression of all the lesions in her lung,” stated Dr. Khil. “I was so pleased with her response.”

The next step in Shari’s treatment is immunotherapy, or smart therapy as Dr. Memon calls it. It is treatment designed specifically for her, based on profiling of her body tissue, to reduce the risk of her cancer returning by targeting individual cells.

Dr. Memon explains it with a military comparison.

“Chemotherapy is like a military bomber plane hitting a very large target with lots of bombs. Immunotherapy is like a drone, aiming at an individual target,” said Dr. Memon. “Since Shari’s cancer had spread to her brain, there is a chance it could spread elsewhere. But a person cannot undergo chemotherapy for the long term. So with her chemotherapy successful and completed, Shari will receive immunotherapy to continue to suppress the cancer.”

“I could not ask for a better team of people,” Shari said of her Blessing Cancer Center providers. “From day one, they were just amazing.”

Treating cancer’s “complications”

Because she was unable to work, Shari’s concerns were greater than those of some other patients.

“You are scared anyway. And then to figure out how, financially, you are going to do it. I did not have insurance. It’s like, how am I going to do this?” Shari wondered.

She did it with the help of Blessing’s Patient Financial Services Department, who helped her apply for disability and Medicaid, and the Blessing Foundation, who provided her financial assistance with transportation, medication and house payments.

“Nobody ever asked me how I was going to pay,” said Shari.

With her medical and financial needs being addressed, Shari looked to Blessing for help with social needs related to cancer. She became involved in a group called WRAP, Women Recovering, Active and Positive.

“It was a lot of fun. Even though you don’t feel like it, sometimes when you get up, if you apply your make-up and get ready for your day it will make you feel a lot better about yourself, which it did!”

Shari’s immunotherapy will continue for at least two years. Many of the concerns she had in December 2018 when she received her diagnosis are gone, thanks to her team at the Blessing Cancer Center.

“It’s so amazing. It’s a huge blessing. It’s like were all part of the same family,” Shari concluded.

Original source can be found here.

Source: Blessing Health System 

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