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Cancer Survivor Looks Back with a Grateful Heart

  • Author: Diane H.
  • Date Submitted: Nov 3, 2021
  • Category: Survivor Stories

“ I enjoy going to Dr. Zacharia. He is very friendly, caring and concerned. It is always nice to see him. He is very warm and welcoming, and I appreciate his youthfulness and honesty.”

A Family’s Connection to Touro Through the Years

Diane Helvie was born and raised in New Orleans. In the early 70s, she worked as a nurse at Touro Infirmary. Over the next several years, Diane met her husband and they welcomed two beautiful children. The family moved to Alabama where Diana went back to school, majoring in French Studies at Auburn University.

While they enjoyed their time in Alabama, Diane and her children eventually made their way back to New Orleans – and were happy to be home again. Diane crossed paths with Touro again in 2015 when her son Stewart suffered a head injury. He was treated at Touro Infirmary. Diane speaks highly of his experience and recovery at Touro. “It was personal and intimate,” says Diane.

Diane has also celebrated new life at Touro, welcoming her granddaughter who was born at Touro on November 9, 2016. Touro has been there in different ways for everyone in her family, most recently for Diane herself.

Self-Awareness Saves Lives

In August of 2017, Diane felt a lump in her left breast through a regular self-breast examination. “I do a self-breast exam every month. When I felt my left breast, I thought it felt different from my right breast,” recalls Diane.

She quickly called to schedule a mammogram. Diane’s intuition was confirmed, and the mammogram discovered a triple negative tumor, which is stage two breast cancer. Diane was referred to Touro Hematologist Oncologist George Zacharia, MD. Under Dr. Zacharia’s care, she immediately began chemotherapy. Diane received sixteen rounds of chemotherapy, initially once per week and gradually decreased to once every two weeks.

Due to Diane’s self-awareness and urgency, her cancer was detected early. A triple negative breast cancer responds best to chemotherapy in the earlier stages than many other forms of cancer. On December 27, she completed her last chemotherapy session in Touro’s Infusion Center.

Diane raves about the nurses and the staff in the Infusion Center, and she knows everyone by their name. “They were great to me,” says Diane. “They would reach out to me at home to see how I was doing. I miss them!” She also adds, “I enjoy their comradery and positivity.”

After the completion of her chemotherapy, Diane underwent a double mastectomy in February of 2018. The mastectomy revealed that her nodes were negative, and her cancer was in remission!

Grateful Patient

Diane periodically visits Dr. Zacharia for follow up care. During her appointments, they discuss her diet, physical health and mental health. Dr. Zacharia’s main goal is for Diane to live a healthy, happy life without a recurrence.

“I enjoy going to Dr. Zacharia. He is very friendly, caring and concerned,” she says. “It is always nice to see him. He is very warm and welcoming, and I appreciate his youthfulness and honesty.”

Diane believes she wouldn’t have been able to get through this experience without the support of the staff, nurses and Dr. Zacharia. She also believes her experience in healthcare has helped her to better understand the process. She is forever grateful for the care that she has received and wants to return the favor.