Danvers native and mother of two, Cynthia House is no stranger to a busy lifestyle. She spent 18 years in the fast-paced, highly competitive field of pharmaceutical sales. Eventually, the chaos of the corporate world took its toll, and House was ready for a drastic switch. Now, at the age of 52, House uses her sales experience to peddle puppy toys and unique bakery items created just for man’s best friend at Dog Spa in Beverly. That career change couldn’t have come at a better time.
“When I turned 50, my doctor told me it was time for a colonoscopy,” said House. “With no family history, no pain, and nothing unusual going on, I wasn’t really that concerned.” House had her colonoscopy in January 2010 at the Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care in Danvers. Her gastroenterologist, Joshua Namias, M.D., put her at ease before the procedure. She was even able to watch as a colonoscope was guided through her large intestine.
“Everything was going fine, and then he stopped to examine something closer. I saw it too. There was a large lump that obviously didn’t belong,” she explained. Dr. Namias removed a portion of the large mass that was found and sent it to pathology for a biopsy to determine whether it was cancerous. Meanwhile, since the mass was so large that it needed to be removed, he suggested she meet with surgical oncologist William Kastrinakis, M.D., chief of general surgery at North Shore Medical Center and a member of the Mass General/North Shore Surgery practice. He recommended removing approximately 10 inches of House’s colon.
“It was very scary,” said House. “My original biopsy came back benign, so I thought I was in the clear. But after the surgery, Dr. Kastrinakis sent that sample to the lab; that’s when they found the cancer.”
House was immediately referred to medical oncologist Lauren Dias, M.D., and the multidisciplinary colon cancer clinic, at the Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center in Danvers. She quickly began a six-month regimen of chemotherapy, going to the Cancer Center every other week, for a few hours at a time.
Multidisciplinary care refers to close coordination among a team of cancer specialists and other clinicians, both in designing an initial treatment plan and throughout the care delivery process. A core component of multidisciplinary care is a tumor board where the specialists present and discuss a patient’s imaging scans, pathology, medical history, and other records together.
“We have found that the coordination of care really improves a patient’s cancer experience, and can elevate the standard of cancer care that we provide,” said Dr. Dias. “Coordinated care is an integral part of comprehensive cancer care, which involves physicians and patients working together to address the myriad issues affecting millions of cancer patients.”
House completed her chemotherapy in September 2010 with no major side effects. She says this experience was eye opening. “I don’t worry about a lot of things like I used to. The silly little things seem trivial now. I also appreciate certain things more and couldn’t have gone through this without my husband.”
Now, it’s back to play time with the puppies, and a laid-back lifestyle House has learned to love. “It is so scary to hear someone say, ‘You have cancer,’” says House. “Do what you have to do to avoid that. Get your colonoscopy at the age of 50.”