Northside Hospital - Maxine's Story: From one generation. To the next


Listen to Maxine's story of survival.

Maxine's Story: From one generation. To the next

Posted on: January 01, 2008


Maxine and her family have always relied on Northside for care. From surgeries to births to cancer treatment, just about everyone has checked in at some point. There's even a running joke that you get more rest at "Spa Northside" than at home, Maxx said.

But treatment hasn't always been met with laughter for the large family, who supported Maxx's sister, Beverly, through chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer, and Maxx's father's surgery.

Six months after getting married, Beverly went to Northside for treatment when doctors found a cyst on her ovaries. The family expected a simple operation to remove it.

"We all thought it was benign. The doctors came out to talk to us while she was still on the operating table," Maxx said. "It was cancer, and it was everywhere. She was 33 years old."

That's when the family really began to take notice of the staff at Northside. Beverly's treatment brought her sisters, parents, friends and new husband to the hospital daily. All of them watched as she went through rounds and rounds of chemotherapy and clinical trials, all with a smile on her face.

"Everyone at Northside knew Beverly," Maxx said. "Even now, if you go in the cancer wing, I'm sure a lot of doctors will remember her. She was a fighter. I think a lot of her positive attitude had to do with how great the staff was though. You should have seen how they took care of her."

After years of treatment, much longer than doctors initially thought she had to live, Beverly died in 1996. Maxx's was diagnosed with cancer when she was 33 years old, the same age Beverly was when doctors found her ovarian cancer.

"Judith, my other sister and I talked about the possibly due to genetics that we could have cancer as well. We felt we were a ticking time bomb," Maxx said. "So I decided to have a preventative laparoscopic hysterectomy. Usually you have the genetic testing first, before you take any preventative measures, but I was so scared we went ahead with it anyway. Afterward, when I received the genetic test results that found I carry the cancerous genes, I was glad I had already had surgery."

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of Maxx's struggles. In April 2002, she was diagnosed with breast cancer after doctors found a lump near her collarbone.

"It wasn't just one; I had three lumps come out of nowhere," Maxx said. "The doctors didn't know if it was from the hormone replacement therapy I took after my hysterectomy, or if it was genetic."

The results showed Maxx's cancer was genetic. The one good thing about the situation was that doctors had detected the cancer early. They elected chemo treatment first to shrink the tumors, then surgery.

"It was hard," Maxx said. "But my oncologist Dr. Jan Galleshaw and my other doctors became my friends. I remember going in and being freaked out, and they took the time to explain things, discuss the options and make me part of the decision-making process."

You hear stories about how cancer makes you different. And you know, it does.

"I went to three experts from Northside, but it came down to choosing the doctor that made me feel confident that I could beat this. We just clicked," Maxx said of her choice. "That's the thing about Northside. No matter what you're going through, there's a doctor there that fits your personality."

For six months, Maxx's family and the Northside staff stood by her side. The treatment was nauseating. It made her hair fall out. It was exhausting.

"It wasn't fun, but at Northside, they had all the bases covered for me. I had a nurse breast navigator and the women of the Network of Hope, who are all cancer survivors, to help make it easier," Maxx said.

After having a mastectomy when she finished chemo, doctors completed her treatment with reconstructive surgery in March 2007 when Maxx was finally ready.

"You hear stories about how cancer makes you different," Maxx said. "And you know, it does. You can't explain it to anyone. But because of my family and the treatment I received, I'm alive. That's what matters."

Maxx's successful treatment regimen allowed her to be there for her daughter, Rochelle, when she underwent emergency surgery in 2004.

"All these experiences have affected my son, Jeremy, so much – between my sister, me, my father – that he's decided to major in pre-med," Maxx said. "The doctors here have even offered to let him shadow them. That, to me, says it all. They've really opened their hearts to us because, you know, they know our whole clan."

*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.

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