CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – Norma Cherry’s daughter, Mary Margaret, recently gave Dr. David Howell of Summit Cancer & Hematology Services – Radiation Oncology a coffee mug decorated with a black bow tie and the words “bow ties are cool” – a nod to Dr. Howell’s favorite clothing accessory.
She filled the mug with candy, and give it to him in time for Christmas; a simple gift to show her appreciation to the doctor with whom she formed a special bond as he treated her mother’s cancer.
“I was ‘the radiation girl’ as he would say,” explained Mary Margaret. The 11-year-old and youngest of six said when her mother began treatments over the summer, she asked if she could go, too. She attended almost every session, and became a regular fixture in the radiation oncology waiting room as her mother underwent treatments.
Dr. Howell took notice of Mary Margaret’s presence, and made her an important part of her mother’s healing process, advising her on how she could help her mother take the necessary steps to facilitate her recovery from treatment.
“He was always so nice and friendly and would tell me to make sure my mom got plenty of rest and took care of herself while she was healing,” she said. “Dr. Howell was my favorite doctor my mom saw.”
Dr. Howell said undergoing the processes involved with the diagnosis and treatment for cancer can be challenging not only for the individual with cancer, but also for other people who know and care about the affected individual.
“The entire process involved with getting a diagnosis of cancer, as well as considering options for treatment and undergoing therapy for cancer impacts not only the affected individual, but also their spouse, children, siblings, neighbors, co-workers and everyone else who cares about them to one degree or another,” he said. “Children and other family members may not be receiving radiation, but they are very much intertwined with the illness, treatment and recovery. I wanted to make sure Mary Margaret understood her mom’s treatment; what to expect and how she could help.”
The diagnosis and treatment
Norma’s cancer journey began in November 2015 when she found a lump in her breast.
She had a biopsy the week before Thanksgiving last year and by the day after Thanksgiving, she received confirmation that cancer was present in her breast and lymph nodes. She had no family history of breast cancer.
The Chambersburg native started chemotherapy in mid-December, also receiving infusions through April. In May, she had a double mastectomy, and her radiation treatments lasted from July through August 2016.
“He would always talk with my daughter at my visits,” Norma said of Dr. Howell. ”He included her in the process.”