Cancer fighter honors Portneuf Cancer Center team

Cancer fighter honors Portneuf Cancer Center team

Above, left to right: Michael Callaghan, MD; Kaci Anderson, RN; Katie Olsen, RN; Jeff and Ellen Reitzel; Kat Nilsson, RN; and Cassie Myers, RN, nurse navigator.

For Ellen Reitzel, 56, who lives in Chubbuck, Idaho with her husband Jeff, dealing with cancer was much easier due to the consistent, compassionate care she received at the Portneuf Cancer Center. To honor that care, they presented to the staff a print of Jeff’s telescopic photograph of the Heart Nebula.

An officer for a local real estate title and escrow company, Reitzel was diagnosed last summer with recurrent cervical cancer.

“After noticing some unusual symptoms, I went to see my doctor,” she said. “During the exam, he saw a spot on my cervix. They biopsied it and it came back cancerous. The oncologist said that radiation and chemotherapy would be better treatments than surgery, so he referred me to the Portneuf Cancer Center.”

The Portneuf Cancer Center is a comprehensive cancer clinic. Knowing every cancer experience is a personal journey, each patient is supported by an experienced team of caregivers who guide them along the way. They assist patients in every aspect of their journey, from finances and diet to emotional well-being.

Recurrent cervical cancer occurs in the cervix – the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The cervix connects the vagina to the lower part of the uterus.

Early cervical cancer can be difficult to diagnose, as there are often few signs or symptoms at first. However, it can be detected early with regular checkups with your gynecologist, accompanied by a Pap test and/or human papillomavirus (HPV) test.

Radiation and chemotherapy

Reitzel’s plan of care included a series of radiation therapy sessions – five days a week for five weeks- followed by chemotherapy.

At her most recent check-up, which included a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, Reitzel received encouraging results.

“They told me that the tumor looked to be completely dead, that it showed up black on the scan, which I understand is good,” she said.

The radiation and chemotherapy sessions made her feel very tired and worn out, so she slowly built up her activities over the next couple of months. Fortunately, she continued to have the support of the Portneuf Cancer Center team.

“Everyone at the Cancer Center was wonderful,” said Reitzel, “from the staff in the chemo suites, all the nurses, and the radiation team with whom I spent a lot of time. They were so supportive of all my needs and concerns. They answered my questions in a way that was easily understandable to me and my family. Everyone always greeted me by name and with a smile. They even listened to me complain about non-medical issues.”

Dark sky areas

Once she is able, Reitzel and her husband hope to travel this summer to enjoy his hobby: astrophotography. To do so, they will visit one of the registered “Dark Sky” places in the U.S. – an area that is secluded and far away from urban areas that flood the night sky with excessive artificial light.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve near Arco, Idaho is nearby, just a 90-minute drive northwest of Pocatello.

“Craters of the Moon is very dark,” said Reitzel. “We go to a Star Party once or twice a year to look through our telescopes and take photographs of the stars and galaxies. During the day, we just find other things to do until sunset.”

The dark sky visits, however, will be coordinated with quarterly follow-up visits with her care team.

“Yes, I'm still on a regular schedule of visiting the Portneuf Cancer Center for the time being,” she said. “I'll be doing quarterly tests for a year to keep an eye on things, but the visits are no trouble at all. The entire staff is great to work with. They are all very professional and very nice people. I would recommend them to anyone!”

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, we invite you to visit Portneuf Cancer Center and meet the dedicated team of professionals. Learn more on our website or by calling 208-239-1720