When breast cancer survivor Harriett Foley stood in front of the Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center Auxiliary to give a speech, she started with a lighthearted remark:
“I was told many years ago that if you are going to speak to an audience, you should ‘know your subject’,” Harriett said. “Wow, what a way to learn.”
About a year earlier, Harriett was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer in her left breast. Upon hearing the news, Harriett was determined to not have extended chemotherapy or extended radiation. She sought opinions from two doctors and decided to take advantage of a newer therapy offered at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. That therapy was Xoft® Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT), along with a lumpectomy:
IORT delivers radiation at the time of surgery. The option is available to eligible patients whose cancer is in an early stage. In breast IORT, the entire dose of radiation may be delivered in a single fraction directly to the breast where the cancer is located. The technique allows doctors to administer high doses of radiation to the tumor bed without exposing nearby, healthy organs to radiation. A typical IORT treatment can be delivered in eight minutes. In comparison, a course of external beam therapy takes about seven weeks .
Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center was able to purchase the technology thanks to the Auxiliary’s generosity, with three donations over three years.
For Harriett, the Auxiliary had provided a precious gift.
"I thought, ‘OK, if you can zap me with radiation while I am asleep, better take advantage of the opportunity because you will not have the opportunity later’,” she said during her speech to the group. “… I was very thankful for the ‘miracle machine’ that was available at Sentara … I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Auxiliary members for being a forward-thinking group and making it possible for me – and those who followed me – to experience the benefits of a lifesaving machine. You probably saved my life.”
Harriet was the first patient to receive this state-of-the-art treatment at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.