How a second opinion saved one mom's life

September 08, 2015 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

As a busy, 35-year-old mother of two, cancer was the last thing on Laurie Barkdoll’s mind.

“Nobody in my family had cancer,” said Barkdoll, of Naperville. “I had never had a mammogram because I was young. I was very scared.”

In the fall of 2009, she discovered a lump in her breast. She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer on Oct. 5, 2009.

After an initial meeting with an oncologist, a friend referred her to Dr. Alexander Hantel, director of medical oncology for Edward Cancer Center. Barkdoll scheduled an appointment with Dr. Hantel to get a second opinion.

"Patients, especially those with a serious diagnosis, have the right to seek a second opinion," Dr. Hantel said. "Some insurers even require a second opinion for certain diagnoses."

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Dr. Hantel recommended Barkdoll participate in a clinical trial at Edward Hospital. She agreed – a move, Barkdoll believes, saved her life.

The Edward Cancer Centers have one of the most active cancer research programs in DuPage County, offering many of the same research trials found at university hospitals. “We provide that mixture of state-of-the-art care, compassion, empathy and interest in you as a person,” Dr. Hantel said.

Barkdoll began the treatment regimen, which included a double mastectomy in May 2010. For a while, she saw more of the Edward Cancer Center than anyone would prefer. But when you’re going through a dark time, little things – like windows, light and a supportive friend – make a big difference.

“It’s hard to stay positive because it’s a cancer center,” Barkdoll said. “But it’s light and open, you can have people back there (during treatment) if you want.”

Straight talk also helps.

“Dr. Hantel doesn’t sugar coat things. He’s very honest, but sensitive,” Barkdoll said. “I felt very comfortable with him. He took time to explain things. He was very thorough.”

Dr. Hantel’s information was supplemented by a class on chemotherapy that Barkdoll said prepared her for the treatment she would receive.

Today Barkdoll is cancer-free, but will continue to see Dr. Hantel for follow-up visits for five more years as part of the trial.

Learn more about oncology services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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