Nurse Takes On The Sexual Assault Beast

IU Health Arnett Hospital nurse Megan Shupe takes sexual assault personally. That’s why she’s working diligently to implement a forensic nursing program focused on specialized care for victims.

She stands at just over four feet tall. But Megan Shupe’s passion for her cause can overpower the most influential audiences in her presence.

Fire fighters, prosecutors, police officers, paramedics, nurses, and doctors – they’ve all witnessed Shupe’s plea. It isn’t a plea for all emergency room patients; it’s a plea for those who come in bruised and battered – the victims of abuse and assault. For months she’s been canvasing Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and beyond, gathering support and resources for her cause. She’s also been doing a whole lot of educating.

“There is not a sexual assault response team in Tippecanoe County – no group that comes together to provide support for victims,” said Shupe, who sat in on two rape trials and a mock trial orchestrated by the prosecutor’s office to help her learn more about the needs of victims and the support in place at the court level. “I start by telling people ‘you may not be the first person to come into contact with a victim but you are likely the one they will remember. Keep an open mind. Don’t give them an eye roll when they tell you their story. A person who has suffered trauma may not behave the way you behave but it doesn’t mean their story is false.’”

***

Sadly, Shupe knows about those stories intimately.

“For me, my story happened years ago during childhood but I remember thinking at that time ‘if one person would have reached out to help me how much different that situation would have been.’ The resources weren’t available, so I’m committed to making sure every patient who comes to this hospital gets the very best support we have to offer,” said Shupe.

For 12 years, she watched helplessly as her single mom struggled in a relationship with a man who changed from the nicest person she’d ever met to what Shupe calls “a monster.”  The physical and sexual abuse were both reasons to leave and reasons to stay.

“I watched her struggle through ‘how can I leave?’ and ‘how can I afford to stay?’ A lot of people stay in the situation because they don’t know how to get out. They take their kids down that path with them because they are scared and they don’t know any other way,” said Shupe.

***

The sexual assault picture is big and scary – like a beast. But Shupe is focusing on each piece as if it is her only patient.

To help her with her efforts the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute recently awarded a two-year grant to develop and strengthen care, education and outreach to victims of assault through the Victims of Crime Act, Federal Assistance Fund. Specifically, Shupe is heading up the West Central Region’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program. The program will be headquartered at Arnett but will also serve surrounding areas including IU Health White Memorial, and Frankfort hospitals. She has also met with leaders in nearby Clinton County. She estimates there are 400 sexual assaults a year in the Lafayette area including the Purdue University campus.

“Since July, I’ve really hit the ground running, knocking down barriers to get the program in place,” said Shupe. What does that look like for IU Health Arnett Hospital?

“Now when someone comes in and they’ve been sexually abused they are basically treated like any other ER patient,” said Shupe. “They sit in a waiting room and don’t have a private place to go. After they wait for the medical clearance, they are told we don’t offer those exams and they are referred to another hospital. The other hospital is so overwhelmed that they have to turn patients away. If it’s sexual assault, you have a traumatized patient who has worked up the courage to come in and there is also a window of opportunity to collect evidence. We can’t afford to lose time.”

By mid-November, Shupe hopes that will be completely transformed. With the backing of Brian Weinrich, Chief of Nursing, and Brad Jordan, Director of Emergency Room and Trauma Services, Shupe’s plan has been unanimously supported by the hospital’s executive leadership team. That plan includes two emergency rooms – one will be with a single entry point to protect the victim from the public eye. The first room will be designed more like a home setting with furniture rather than medical equipment. That area will serve as a consult room to collect patient information. The second room will serve as an exam room that will include a private shower.

Patient care will begin with a medical legal examination that includes an interview where the patient recalls as much detail as possible from the incident and the perpetrator.  The interview is followed by a thorough exam that includes body mapping and swabbing, identifying lacerations, bruises and areas that may provide forensic evidence – such as particles of skin from beneath the fingernails, a possible sign of the victim scratching the perpetrator during defense. A special camera has been ordered to photograph the victim’s injuries.

***

Thirteen nurses will be trained in forensic nursing and will rotate through an “on call” schedule. “I think everybody has a story – something that led them down a path. I can’t speak for every nurse in forensics, but at some point if you are willing to make the sacrifices involved in this level of patient care, you almost have to have a personal experience, a passion for the victims,” said Shupe. She started her career in ER medicine in a small critical access hospital where she first learned about forensic nursing. She completed the training and joined IU Health in 2011 working in ER. She will continue splitting her time between administrative duties for the SANE program, and bedside care.

“My goal is to get them while they are here. Whether they are a victim of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, stabbings, gunshot wounds, elder abuse -– anything where emergency medicine brushes with the legal system – I want us to be available to handle those situations,” said Shupe. “When we say we offer patient support we want the entire community to recognize what resources are needed and what resources exist. When we discharge a patient we want to send them out with everything available from access to 24-hour hotlines, to legal aid, to victim advocacy and safe shelters. It’s the only way to help them.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Hiding Scars, Hides Reminders Of Breast Cancer

Patients diagnosed with breast cancer have plenty of reminders of the treatment and healing. Hiding the scar of surgery is one way to mask the reminder.

She missed one year of having her regular mammogram and it turns out it was a significant year to miss. In February Dinah Duvall was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“They found a tumor in my left breast.  I started my treatment at another hospital and that surgeon estimated the size of the tumor was 3.5 millimeters. An MRI followed and the tumor was much larger. It was a scary time,” said Duvall, who was referred to an oncologist. Chemotherapy followed. Then she started reading and second guessing her treatment. She lacked confidence in her providers.

“I didn’t ask for advice; I didn’t talk about it until it was apparent because I was bald. Then friends recommended I get a second opinion,” said Duvall. Everything changed the first time she met IU Health oncologists Dr. Anna Maria Storniolo and Dr. Carla Fisher. Something just clicked with her new providers. She felt comfortable.  

“I was going into a third round of chemo, already tired and already losing my hair and Dr. Storniolo told me that it wasn’t necessary. I was so relieved,” said Duvall, who had a partial mastectomy.  She was also relieved after meeting with Dr. Fisher and learning about a technique that concealed the incision around her nipple.

In a Hidden Scar procedure, a surgeon places the incisions in a location that is hard to see, so that the scar is not visible when the incision heals. The result is little to no visible reminder of the cancer. The Hidden Scar approach can be performed for a nipple sparing mastectomy or a lumpectomy procedure.

“My personal experience is patients are resilient and are happy with most of the outcomes. To hide a scar makes a difficult journey easier,” said Dr. Fisher, who frequently performs the hidden scar and nipple sparing. “It’s important to work with a great team of plastic surgeons to get the best results. We have that here,” said Dr. Fisher.

For Duvall, married with three adult children, the outcome couldn’t have been more satisfying.

“I go to the Y to work out and the last thing you want when you are in the shower is for someone to see a scar,” said Duvall, who turns 70 next month. “I’m not a terribly vain person but I’d prefer not to have outward signs of that cancer – whether it’s something people question or wonder – there are better things to talk about in life.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Breast Cancer Patient “Football May Have Saved My Life”

A 40-year-old breast cancer patient was persuaded to perform a self-exam while watching an NFL game that promoted Breast Cancer Awareness.

She’s always been an avid football fan. And now, at the age of 40, Nicole Biberstine is an even bigger fan.

She was sitting in her living room on a typical fall day last October, taking in an NFL game. She doesn’t remember who was dominating on the field, but she does remember the overall color on the screen – pink.

“It sounds so cliché but I was just watching the game and seeing all the pink ribbons and promotion for breast cancer awareness when I decided I should do a self-exam,” said Biberstine. She felt a lump at the top of her left breast but thought it might have been a result of breast feeding her youngest, a son, who just turned two. She also has a daughter, five.

Biberstine met her husband Mike, a former Marian County prosecutor, after she was rear-ended by a drunk driver. She made a few court appearances and the two began dating months later. They have been married for eight years.

Before she became a stay-at-home mom, Biberstine worked in fundraising for Make-a-Wish and Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority. As part of the sorority’s philanthropic efforts, Biberstine helped pass out pink ribbons at the Colts games.

“It’s all come full circle – kind of like a bad Lifetime movie,” said Biberstine, a patient of Dr. Bryan Schneider. Until she found the lump, Biberstine had not had a mammogram because she said she wasn’t yet 40 and – the youngest of six children –  there had been no family history. She was diagnosed at Stage 3C.

“I was completely in shock. I went by myself for a mammogram and ultra sound because I honestly thought it was a blocked milk duct,” said Biberstine. She has undergone chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, reconstruction and radiation.

“I have Her2+ breast cancer so it’s aggressive but responds well to the chemotherapy. If I were to give a message to other women it would be to be your own advocate,” said Biberstine. “It’s never too early to start checking your own body and listen to your own body signs. No one else will do it for you. Even though you can get immune and annoyed by the pink in October it serves a purpose and I’m an example of it. If I hadn’t done an exam and waited for a mammogram what would it be like 6-9 months down the road?”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Knitting Through Breast Cancer

When Suzette Brown was diagnosed with breast cancer, she whiled away the hours of chemotherapy knitting hats. She now has more than 150 hats that she hopes to pass on to other cancer patients.

When she showed up at the registration table volunteers asked Suzette Brown if she was a survivor. She was taking part in one of her many volunteer activities – the 2105 “Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk.” Survivors receive special recognition at the annual walk.

But at this walk, Brown accompanied by her husband Derek, was not a survivor.

“I wasn’t diagnosed but I was waiting on answers. Somewhere in the back of my mind I felt like I might be one of those survivors some day,” said Brown. Two years earlier she had discovered a lump on her right breast.  She went for a mammogram and received a diagnosis of a cyst.

“I did what I thought I was suppose to do – report a change in the breast and get it checked by a mammogram.  Life went on,” said Brown.    

And life was busy. She was an adult college student, studying nursing. She and Derek were high school sweethearts at Pendleton Heights. They were married six months out of high school and had three daughters. Brown worked as an office administrator for 25 years and then started taking college classes hoping to work as a hospice nurse. Throughout her life she was always helping with one project or another – class parent roles and committees, 4-H clubs, Girl Scouts, children and adult outreach church ministry, JR girls camp counselor, leadership boards, mission trips, contact HELP crisis call center – it was who she was.

But as time went on, the cyst on her breast began to change and Brown became concerned. She consulted her sister – Sondra Jones, a nurse with IU Health who encouraged Brown to go in for another mammogram.

“It was beginning to dimple. It just wouldn’t go away and I felt like there was something more there. I was somewhat in denial but knew I had to find out,” said Brown, 52. 

She got the results over the phone. Her husband’s father had just passed away and they were in the middle of working on his house. She was 49 and she had breast cancer.

“My husband drove in the driveway and asked what the doctor said. I said ‘I have breast cancer,’ and then I went back to work. I didn’t have time for this. Our youngest was starting college, we were empty nesting, we were in a good place,” said Brown.

Just before she started treatment, her family arranged a photo shoot for Brown, her husband, her mother, three daughters and granddaughter. One photo has Brown posed with pink boxing gloves.

“I had no idea at that point what I was in for. I thought I’d just get treatment and go on with my life,” said Brown. Six months later the same photo was taken and Brown was bald. Her eyebrows and eyelashes were gone and she was more than 20 pounds heavier. Before the diagnosis she was healthy – walking five miles a day. During treatment, she was so tired she used a golf cart to drive around the family’s rural Henry County property.

“When I was diagnosed I was angry. I was annoyed because I work hard to stay healthy.  I was too busy to deal with this. I was meeting myself coming and going. If someone had asked me if I could do something I’d say it would have to be between two or three in the morning. I was just always on the go and it was my ‘before cancer normal’ – helping others, and enjoying time with my family, working, college, and investing in my health, and then I got the diagnosis of cancer.”

It was her sister Sondra Jones who told her that cancer slowed her down. “They first thought it was Stage I or II but after the mastectomy they diagnosed it was Stage III,” said Brown. She had 27 lymph nodes removed from her right arm. The cancer was also found in the lymph nodes.

She went through six and a half months of chemotherapy and under the care of IU Health Ball Hospital’s Dr. Yunjie X. Lin, she had 34 rounds of radiation.  Six months later, in March of 2017 she went through a 14-hour reconstructive surgery. After her mastectomy she was diagnosed with Lymphedema – swelling in her right arm, chest area and legs caused by the removal of the lymph nodes.

Other surgeries followed in July, October and December 2017. And another in May – all to repair damage caused to Brown’s body from the breast cancer diagnosis and the reconstruction involving Lymphedema – in her chest wall, her abdomen, her back, and her trunk. She now uses a pneumatic compression device (lymphedema pump) to help manage the Lymphedema 68 minutes a day.  

“It’s basically like a traffic jam in my system and the pump is redirecting the traffic,” said Brown.

It was when she was going through her chemotherapy and the after effects that she began to knit hats. Holding the soft yarn in her hands and looping the fiber onto a round loom gave her a purpose and kept her busy – a different kind of busy unlike any of the other projects she had managed throughout marriage and motherhood.

“I would often sit out back on the swing and just look out at the cornfields and knit,” said Brown. The family’s 120-year-old homestead sits on five acres. Watching the hummingbirds, and enjoying nature and the simple things in life like resting in the sunshine and breathing in the country air became an integral part of her healing. And while she rested, she knitted. And then she knitted some more. Two years later, she has a box filled with 150 hats – in a rainbow of colors.

The knitting loom was a gift from her sister and the hats – although finished are awaiting a final tie off of their ends. Brown says her sister will help her finish each one, cutting the strings this fall.  She wants to add gift cards and a positive note and then give them away to other patients.

“For a long time I didn’t want to give them up because they were symbolic of my journey – every hat is part of that journey,” said Brown. “Now I’m ready to cut the ends and give them away. I’m in a good place.”

And she’s back at it again – volunteering and helping others but this time she’s using her personal experience – her fight with breast cancer – to serve by encouraging others and sharing her story about early detection, creating awareness, and supporting others on their journey.    

After driving many miles several times to Indianapolis to share in a cancer support group, Brown started one closer to home. She has about 26 women who have attended the twice-monthly meetings at the Daleville Community Library. “Once Upon a Cure” is for women newly diagnosed with cancer, women going through treatment for cancer, and women who have survived cancer. Each woman has her own personal story to share about her journey and diagnosis.

They come together to tell their stories, ask questions, form new friendships and . . . yes, to learn to knit.  

“We have a code word and it’s ‘blink,’” said Brown. “I often send a simple one word text with the word “BLINK” to a cancer survivor which means ‘when you look back at the timeline of your life, this will just be a blink of your eye.   Keep blinking.’” 

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Video Gaming Leads To Kidney Donation

A single kidney forever connects two online video gamers.

Their gamertags are “NovaSpartan06” and “FlecherdsNasty.” They knew little about each other outside their virtual world – other than they both liked playing video games. That is until FlecherdsNasty, or Robert “Trace” Phillips learned  NovaSpartan06 or Davide Lewis needed a kidney donor.

At that time, Phillips was living in Seattle – about 2,300 miles away from Lewis’ Indiana home of Clarksville. Phillips, 25, was born and raised in Southern California and recently moved back with his wife of five years. After high school he enlisted in the Marines for four years and then transitioned to Microsoft where he’s worked as a Premier Field Engineer for the past two years. It’s a job that involves a lot of travel.

“I’ve been playing video games since I was old enough to hold a controller and playing online since I was 12,” said Phillips. “With the nature of my job – traveling a lot – it’s sometimes easier to have online friendships than in person.”

Lewis is one of Phillips’ consistent game partners. A graduate of Jeffersonville High School, Lewis was in the sixth grade when he was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy. Also know as Berger’s disease or synpharyngitic, the kidney disease results when an antibody (immunoglobulin) becomes lodged in the kidney. IgA deposits build up and damage the kidney tissues. According to the National Kidney Disease Foundation the causes for IgA are not clearly known but it can result from an outside irritation such as a virus. According to Foundation statistics, there are more than 3,000 new patients awaiting kidney transplants each month. Every 14 minutes someone new is added to the transplant waiting list.

On February 28, 2018, Lewis, 24, became a recipient of Phillips’ kidney. IU Health’s Dr. William C. Goggins was his surgeon. He remains in the care of Dr. Muhammad S. Yaqub, a nephrologist with IU Health.

Over the years, the two men found they had more in common than gaming. While Phillips enlisted in the Marines, Lewis was active in the ROTC. Like Phillips, Lewis took computer classes in hardware and software. And like Phillips, Lewis has been married to his wife April for five years. The couple has one daughter Addison, 4 and a second child on the way.

The two men met face-to-face through a mutual friend and Phillips decided to pay Lewis a visit – traveling across country. He spent a week with his friend and a couple days after returning home, he decided he wanted to donate his kidney to Lewis.

“We actually joked about his kidney failure a lot, and I didn’t actually even think about donating until he brought up his blood type randomly in conversation,” said Phillips. “That’s sort of when it clicked for me. I know that O- is a one-way street and so I asked about the whole donation process and what would be involved for a donor.” Things clicked from there.

“To me it wasn’t about why I should – there are plenty of reasons to donate. I didn’t see a single reason why I wouldn’t donate a kidney,” said Phillips. “My life has been exceptionally blessed and honestly I feel grateful having an opportunity to give to another and spread the love. Davide has a beautiful family and I know that if I was in his shoes I’d hope to be given the same generosity, and I’m just happy that he can live life to its fullest.”

For Lewis, life has been a whole lot better since the transplant. He’s gotten a job as a meat cutter for Sam’s Club – a better job than he had before. He enjoys hanging out with his wife, daughter and his sister Cassandra and yes; he still enjoys playing video games. He’d eventually like to get into video streaming.

“I can’t thank Trace enough for what he did for me,” said Lewis. “I’ve had a lot of support from family during my kidney failure and it’s just great to finally make it through the transplant and feel good again.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

California Transplant Patient: “I Didn’t Want To Put My Life On Hold”

When Brandon Facon learned the wait time for a liver transplant in California was nearly three years, he and his family began making plans to come to IU Health.

Twice Brandon Facon has left his life in California and traveled to Indiana where he has sought medical help from what he considers the best transplant team the world over. The first time was in 2012. The second time was just a few weeks ago.

At the age of nine, Facon, who just turned 24, was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis. The progressive disease of the liver slowly destroys the bile ducts in the liver. With damaged bile ducts, the gallbladder causes inflammation and scaring of the bile ducts. At the time of his diagnosis doctors told him he’d probably need a liver transplant within eight years. It wasn’t something his parents talked with him a lot about.

“At the age of nine, I didn’t want him constantly wondering when the ball would drop. I wanted him to be a kid,” said his mom Anne Facon. Brandon knew he had stomach issues and had been diagnosed with colitis. He got involved with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

Eight years came.

Brandon was in his senior year of high school trying to make the most of that milestone year. But it wasn’t easy.  On February 1st he wrote: “Already missed the first two periods of my last semester of high school. This should be fun.”

At its worst the disease causes abdominal pain, swelling of the spleen, muscle and joint pain, fatty deposits on the skin, yellowing of the eyes and skin, diarrhea and weight loss.

When he was trying to be a regular teen – free from the disease that slowed him down – he played video games, and some non-contact sports with friends – mainly golf and soccer. “I wasn’t fast enough to play lacrosse and I was too small to play football,” said Facon, who typically weighs about 130 pounds and stands 5’6.”

He found his talent early on in photography and design and worked with the yearbook staff. But always in the back of his mind was the transplant. He knew he needed one.

It was at a support group for people affected by biliary cholangitis that he met a man who had come to IU Health for his transplant.  The disease typically occurs in older people between the ages of 30 and 60.

“He said ‘I had your disease and I moved to Indiana and I got transplant in two months as opposed to two years,’” Facon related. “So we went home and checked our options and read about University Hospital and how it’s a hospital of excellence. We came back and I got my first transplant in two months.” That was August 10, 2012.

“He really wanted to walk at graduation so he graduated and we left for Indiana the next day,” said Anne Facon. In addition to Brandon, Michael and Anne Facon have a daughter Danielle, a year older than Brandon.

Following surgery Brandon showed pictures of his scar on his Facebook page and wrote: “Never would I have thought my life would be like this but I honestly wouldn’t want it to be any other way.” One year after his transplant he said he felt the healthiest he’d ever felt. He has spoken publicly about his transplant and his disease, and encourages others to consider organ donation.

The transplant kept him at that healthy stage for five years.

After a year’s deferment, he started classes at California Polytechnic State University. Initially he thought he’d study industrial engineering but after an introductory class, he switched to mechanical engineering. During his sophomore year he got a job in the photography studio of the art department. Eventually he spent more time in the art department working as the main technician. Part of his interest in photography has always been how the camera works. He admits to being more comfortable behind the lens than in the picture.

For three years, things were good and then there were bad days.

“I got into a cycle that at the beginning of the quarter I was feeling good and by the end I was sick. Being in college, it’s easy to pick up germs. It’s hard for college students to understand that if they’re sick they shouldn’t go to class, so I was exposed to a lot of germs,” said Facon. Because primary biliary cholangitis is an autoimmune disease, stress can trigger and heighten the symptoms.

“Five years of college took a toll on my liver and the disease returned. I didn’t want to put my life on hold after college so I said let’s do this,” said Facon. “It was comfortable back here. We met people the first time, we were more familiar with the state, and we knew the team.”

Brandon and his mom drove 10 hours a day for four days back to Indiana. “He had been sleeping about 20 hours a day at this point and it continued on the trip out here. We’d stop at thrift stores along the way to look for camera equipment,” said his mom, who didn’t leave his hospital room during the stay.  On September 6th Facon received his second liver transplant – performed by the same surgeon he had in 2012 – Dr. Richard S. Mangus.

His goal is to be back in California by Thanksgiving. “We’d like to get him in an environment where he isn’t depleted by germs and can thrive,” said Anne Facon.

Facon is anxious to complete his senior project focusing on designing camera equipment.

“My photography teacher told me I should start turning the camera on myself and document my story,” said Facon. “But for right now, I just want to get a job and live life in my 20s.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes

Breast Cancer – A Plan For Prevention

IU Health offers an ongoing plan for women who are at a risk for breast cancer.

Maybe they have a family history, or they have had “watch spots” in the past. There are a variety of reasons that some women may need close monitoring for breast cancer. For Jennifer Harley it was a particular cell pattern that showed up on a biopsy that was done because of changes in her mammogram.

Harley has been a nurse at IU Health since 1985 so she knows how important it is to pay attention to all the signs. When it came to her own health, she wasn’t going to ignore valuable information. In her mind, it meant early detection, early intervention.

The cell pattern suggested something unusual so Harley was referred for a biopsy.

“The biopsy wasn’t malignant but it showed a cell pattern that put me in a high risk group for breast cancer,” said Harley. “The likelihood of diagnosis goes up more than the average person so they recommended intervention.” That was in 2015.

Since then she has been part of a prevention program that is similar to someone who had breast cancer and is five-years post treatment. Working closely with IU Health nurse practitioner Sarah Bennett she receives an estrogen suppressant, and mammograms every six months, followed by an MRI.

“They are keeping an eye, watching for tumor development,” said Harley. “They talk to me about what research has shown and why it’s important to do more than just watch. It’s not even considered precancerous, it’s just that we have experts here that can determine the risk factors based on the cell pattern,” said Harely, who spent 25 years of her career working in oncology at Riley Hospital. 

“A lot of what you can’t prevent in pediatric cancer, you can in adults – stay out of the sun, stop smoking, lose weight. I see this as one more opportunity to prevent a diagnosis of breast cancer,” said Harley. “It gives me a peace of mind and it is encouraging to know there’s a treatment plan in place and we are the kind of center that can provide that for our patients.”

The prevention program is part of an overall treatment plan that begins at the point of the breast screening. It can include consulting on diet and weight loss, genetic counseling and ongoing evaluation of blood markers – all part of a program that helps women take an active role in their health care and reduce their risks.

Harley has three sisters and even though there is no history of breast cancer in her family, she said it was helpful to be able to share the prevention plant with her siblings.

More about Harley:

  • Her mother was a nurse so she had an early interest in pursuing nursing. She completed her undergraduate degree at Ball State University and her Masters degree from the University of Kentucky.
  • What she likes best about being a nurse educator: “The opportunity to both encourage new nurses, help them be successful, and to help ensure best practices which makes for best patient care.”
  • Outside the hospital: Harley is involved with orphan ministry. She has traveled to Russia and also helps locally through her church.

 — T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Best Friends, Police Dispatchers United by Breast Cancer

Two friends who are also co-workers share something else in common – they are both breast cancer survivors.

There have been girls’ trips to Vegas; weekends browsing at garage sales; and lots of shared family birthday parties. Michelle Coy and Traci Cox have enjoyed many years of friendship. They’ve also shared something else – both were diagnosed with breast cancer.

It was July 21, 2008 when Cox received her diagnosis. She had been feeling some pain in her armpit and went to the doctor for a check up. First there was a mammogram and then a biopsy that confirmed breast cancer. Under the care of IU Health hematologist/oncologist Dr. Danielle Doyle, Cox went through treatments that included chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy. She was 40.

“I had 35 lymph nodes removed and cancer was in 33 of them. They guessed I’d been walking around with it for a while. I was lucky it was slow growing,” said Cox. She met Coy when she became a dispatcher for the Johnson County Public Safety 911. Their friendship has continued for more than two decades. When Cox was diagnosed, Coy made phone calls to family and friends and helped organize fundraisers with co-workers.

“Her face was one of the last I saw when I rolled into surgery,” said Cox. 

In October 2016, Cox was there when her friend received the same news. Coy had gone for a wellness exam when a lump was detected. She was 52. Sixteen weeks of chemotherapy and eight weeks of radiation followed.

Cox gave her friend a t-shirt that read: “Cancer, You’ve Picked the Wrong Girl.” More than anything Cox was there for her. She knew what she was going through.

“Traci was my rock because I knew she’d gone through a horrible time,” said Coy. “I often went to her with questions about medication or concerns like when I was so tired.” Cox’s response to her friend was: “You’ll be fine.”

Both women graduated from Franklin High School; their daughters were born two weeks apart; and they’ve celebrated weddings and birthdays together. They both started working as dispatchers for Johnson County Public Safety within a few years of each other.

“We’re here doing this job, responding to calls because we like to help people and we like to make a difference,” said Coy. “I was in shock when I got the news and I’m glad I had Traci to help me through – she made a difference.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health. 
   
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Nurse Gets All Clear On Breast Cancer

IU Health University Hospital nurse Lori Harman recently celebrated the end of chemo with the same co-workers who supported her throughout her diagnosis and treatment.

It was August of 2017 when Lori Harman got a diagnosis that she was all too familiar with. She works as an oncology nurse and the words she heard were: Breast Cancer.

Married to Gabe Harmon, an IU Health police officer, and the mother of Gabriel Harmon, she discovered the lump in her right breast through a self examine. Her doctor Carla Fisher ordered a biopsy that revealed two spots on Harman’s right breast and a spot in her left lymph node. She began chemotherapy on September 11. Harmon was often spotted at work with her IV pole pumping fluids into her system during treatment.

She went through six cycle of Neoadjuvant chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy and sentinel lymph node dissection followed by four more weeks of chemotherapy.

“The pathology came back with no cancer and all margins clear – a complete response.  I continued with Herceptin targeted therapy infusion every 3 weeks for 1 year,” said Harmon.

Her co-workers in the Multi-D clinic organized benefits and offered emotional support during her treatment so when she recently rang the bell – signaling and end to a year of therapy – naturally they were present to celebrate.

October is Breast Cancer Prevention Month – a time to raise awareness of the most common cancer among women. It is estimated that more than 2 million women will be diagnosed by the end of this year. Doctors recommend regular screenings including mammograms – as the most reliable source for early detection.

“I encourage all of my coworkers to take selfies, wearing their pink gowns when they get their mammies. It’s a way to encourage others,” said Harman.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

IU Health Tipton Hospital Caring Hearts Coat Drive

IU Health Tipton Hospital is partnering with Steele’s Tipton Dry Cleaners and Laundry and ABC & Me at Emanuel Lutheran Child Care to present “Caring Hearts”, a coat drive for Tipton and surrounding areas. Residents are encouraged to donate a new or gently used coat of any size to the coat drive.  The coats will then be cleaned by Tipton Dry Cleaners & Laundry. On November 7th, coats will be distributed to individuals who would otherwise not have a coat for the winter. A simple process, but to be successful, we are asking local residents for their help!

To get involved, individuals should do the following: Look through closets for coats no longer needed, and in good shape/repair, or purchase a new coat to donate.

Bring the coat(s) to a collection site by October 31.

Collection bins will be located at:

  • IU Health Tipton Hospital Main Lobby (Entrance #1) and Medical Office Building North (Entrance #4)
  • Steele’s Tipton Dry Cleaners & Laundry
  • ABC & Me at Emanuel Lutheran Child Care

Coat distribution will take place at IU Health Tipton Hospital, Community Classroom, Wednesday, November 7 from 4:30 – 6:30 pm.

For more information on the distribution of coats, please contact Crissy Proffitt at 765.675.8107.

Photo Caption: Children from ABC & Me help set the boxes out. Pictured L-R: Ellie Floyd, Josie Hiatt, Tiana Beeman and Jillian Anderson.