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Patient Testimonials

Victoria Breen

Dr. Reiland and Victoria Breen

"We have a breast specialist – right here in Sioux Falls. Without Dr. Reiland, I would be in a very different position today. Everyone at Avera was so kind, I can't say enough. Every woman deserves that experience."

Victoria Breen would have never wanted to receive a breast cancer diagnosis – especially after having eight previous surgeries on her breast due to skin cancer at a young age. "But thanks to Dr. Julie Reiland, I came out of the breast cancer experience better than when I came in," she says.

Victoria had a vivid dream that she had a breast lump and felt compelled to get it checked out. A mammogram, breast ultrasound and biopsy indeed confirmed that she had breast cancer.

After hearing good recommendations about Dr. Reiland, Victoria went to see her for a surgical consultation, and learned that she could have a lumpectomy to remove the cancer from her breast. Also, previous surgeries on her breast had left her "lopsided," and she learned that Dr. Reiland could incorporate plastic surgery techniques to make both her breasts look the same.

"Dr. Reiland is not only an amazing surgeon, she is an amazing person," says Victoria, who also went through radiation and chemotherapy to prevent further spread of the cancer and recurrence. "It wasn't easy, but at every step of the journey, she was there to hold my hand if I needed it, or to give me a pep talk."

Today, Victoria says she feels better about herself than she has ever felt in her life. "As far as my breasts were concerned, I never felt pretty – I always felt defective. For someone to take that defect away was absolutely amazing," she said.

Jona Forbes

Dr. Reiland and Jona Forbes

"Dr. Reiland didn’t give up, and we finally got it all taken care of. She is high on the list of people I admire," Jona said. "I know she listened and cared very much. I never felt uncomfortable about anything while I was under her care."

After a lumpectomy and follow-up surgery that did not successfully resolve her breast cancer, as well as a painful bout with cellulitis, Jona Forbes of Spirit Lake, Iowa, felt like a "problem" patient. Yet thanks to great care by Dr. Julie Reiland, she can put breast cancer and the complications she experienced behind her.

Jona’s cancer was detected during a routine mammogram in March 2012. A lumpectomy was scheduled before Jona had time to consider her options. Yet the surgery did not result in clear margins, and neither did follow-up surgery. Jona continued to feel concerned about her long-term health.

In the meantime, a friend of a friend suggested that Jona contact Dr. Julie Reiland with Avera Medical Group Comprehensive Breast Care. Jona had her records sent to Dr. Reiland’s office before scheduling an appointment. However, when she developed the pain, swelling and inflammation of cellulitis, Jona went in to see Dr. Reiland right away.

In light of her unclear margins and the impact of cellulitis – an infection that can occur after breast surgery – Dr. Reiland recommended a mastectomy. Yet after that surgery took place, the incision did not heal as it should, and follow-up surgery was needed. "I would get healed up and it would open again," Jona said. The solution turned out to be treatment with nitrate sticks that chemically cauterize the skin.

Jona also highly rates the staff of Avera Medical Group Comprehensive Breast Care. "You couldn’t find anyone better than her staff. They are just super. They really care – you are not just another number or another patient. I have nothing but high praise for everyone."

Patty Larson

dr. dosch and patty larson

Patty needed to see a surgeon, and a close friend highly recommended Dr. Wade Dosch. When Dr. Dosch also was among the names mentioned by her primary care provider, Patty scheduled an appointment.

Typically, Patty Larson of Sioux Falls would not put much stock into psychics, and it was all in fun when her daughter decided to visit a psychic’s booth at a county fair. The psychic said many things – some things that never came to pass and some that were a good guess. Yet Patty's daughter was also told to warn her mother to see a doctor about a life-threatening condition.

Patty believes God used the cryptic message to get her attention. "It had been over a year since my last mammogram," so Patty decided to schedule her annual screening right away. Yet it was still a shock when she was diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer.

"It is such a whirlwind when you get a cancer diagnosis."

"Up to this point, I felt like I needed to be the strong one, and hadn't shown any emotion. I told my husband and kids that a lot of women have this, and that I would be fine," Patty related. "When I saw Dr. Dosch, he was so calm, compassionate, caring and soft-spoken, I felt I had permission to cry for the first time."

Dr. Dosch explained all the options in great detail, listened carefully to her concerns and fears, and encouraged her to call with any additional questions. "He's such a kind, compassionate person. He cares about you, your family and how breast cancer is affecting your daily life." After her successful breast surgery, Patty was surprised that Dr. Dosch even continued to see her at follow-up appointments every six months for two years.

Patty says the term "cancer survivor" doesn't define her – yet she wears a pink bracelet as a reminder of her experience. And her bout with cancer has changed her outlook on life. A coffee mug in her office says it all – "I didn't survive cancer to die of stress." She's taking more time to enjoy the journey – which still includes a few county fairs each summer. Not so much to visit psychics, but to show animals with her kids.

Delores Zonnefeld

dr. merrigan and delores zonnefeld

"Dr. Merrigan sat with us for more than two hours, explaining everything that was in the pathology reports, and what my options were. She was compassionate about what I was going through both physically and emotionally."

In the past, Delores Zonnefeld of Sioux Center, Iowa, had experienced abnormal mammograms and biopsies, and they always turned out to be nothing. So she was shocked at the news that two spots detected during her mammogram and follow-up ultrasound were likely cancerous. This was confirmed by a biopsy performed at the Avera Breast Center in Sioux Falls.

The next step was to find a surgeon. Delores had heard good recommendations for Avera Medical Group Comprehensive Breast Care. She called to schedule an appointment with the first available surgeon, which was Dr. Tricia Merrigan. Her husband, Garry, went with Delores to the first appointment.

On the day of surgery Dr. Merrigan took the time to talk with Delores' family about their questions and concerns. Surgery went well, and it appeared that Delores' cancer was contained to the tumor site. Yet the routine biopsy of lymph nodes showed an abnormality.

Dr. Merrigan was surprised and disappointed to hear of a possible spread to the lymph nodes, and she shared these feelings at Avera’s multidisciplinary breast conference. Other breast specialists and pathologists took Dr. Merrigan's feelings seriously, and recommended that the lymph nodes be retested at a specialized lab in Tennessee. It turned out Delores has an extremely rare condition that is indeed abnormal, yet benign.

"Dr. Merrigan is so skilled, and she did an amazing job with my surgery. She was always so helpful. It was not unusual for Dr. Merrigan to call me herself to see how I was doing. The care of Dr. Merrigan and her nurse Michelle was a blessing for us."

Val Hultquist

Val HultquistPink

By Pam Everett

Her favorite color was always PINK!

She was always dressed in pink and I always wore blue. Our beautiful frilly dresses were all made with much love by our Mom, and we always had a new one for Easter and Christmas — not to mention pretty sundresses in the summertime.

Have you ever noticed that newborn baby girls are always dressed in pink? Their newly decorated rooms are painted soft with pink curtains and pink teddy bears sitting on pink flowered baby quilts! Pink little kissy lips and blushing pink cheeks. Pretty pink ribbons in their hair. Pink little fairies dancing out of fairytale books.

Pink is all about happiness and light heartedness.

Pink passionate hearts on Valentine’s Day. Pink bubblegum and pink cotton candy are so yummy. Pink flamingos in my summer drink. Vibrant pink flowers of all shades in my flower garden make me happy!

Beautiful pink skies at dawn and dusky sunsets are so stunning.

Pink is one of my favorite Aerosmith songs.

Pink – Pink – Pink

Pink now has a new meaning for me since my youngest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Pink was no longer the calm, comforting and happy color that it had always been. It no longer represented the sweet innocence of a little girl. It suddenly became a very angry and intense color.

How could this be? I’ve already lost one younger sister to cancer and heart disease.

Pink hearts and broken hearts.

Intense online research became a scary learning curve. One in eight is the ugly statistic … so much frightening and complex information.

I’m the nurse — the big sister — who should have all the right answers. I wanted to do something supportive at the first appointment with the oncologist and surgeon. Something comforting and calming … but not with the color pink!

Yellow is bright, sunny, hopeful. That’s it! A box of “sunshine!”

Everything yellow — from little yellow notepads to yellow rubber duckies and yellow flowers. Yellow candles and yellow lotions with sweet smelling scents! Yes, it helped to relieve some of the tension while sitting in that waiting room that day while we said silent prayers and kept her spirits up as much as possible.

And then the meeting with Dr. Julie Reiland, the patient and compassionate surgeon who reviewed all the test results and treatment plans. On to Dr. Amy Krie, the extraordinary oncologist who laid out the plan. The “team” of 15 experts had recommended heavy-duty chemotherapy to begin immediately for 12 weeks and then less toxic chemo with the drug Herceptin, the drug the doctor called “a life saver.” Surgery options and radiation were also discussed. Genetic counselors, the navigation/patient advocate lady, the wig lady and all the integrative medical team available met with us that day. The tour of the Avera Cancer Institute highlighted the wonderful amenities available to patients and families, while the beautiful building itself is architecturally unique. Such an impressive building along with an even more impressive team of knowledgeable, caring physicians and staff! They incorporate the whole person — mind, body and spirit — in the treatment process.

Suddenly … there is HOPE.

I felt so certain that my sister was in the best hands and in the best possible place.

The fierce and angry pink once again has become a much more neutral, soothing and hopeful color.

The journey began down that pathway of hope, faith and courage.

That journey will continue down the long and winding road … that road to the Land of Oz, where we will all gain courage, the heart and intellect that the lion, the tin man and the scarecrow obtained.

It’s a new day — a new dawn — and it’s a PINK one!

Be courageous!

Be fearless!

Fight like a girl!

And my new favorite color, by the way, is PINK!

P.S. My sister feels “in the PINK” and now “everything is coming up roses!”