In April 2010, Sherilyn Webb, wife, mother, grandmother, physician, suddenly became Sherilyn Webb, cancer patient.
Although not totally unexpected given her family history, Dr. Webb’s breast cancer diagnosis put her home life and medical career on hold for the better part of a year. It also sent her from Wyoming to North Carolina in search of surgery and treatment and ultimately a referral to the Cancer Wellness Program at the FirstHealth Center for Health & Fitness-Southern Pines.
“That has probably helped me more than anything,” she says of her Cancer Wellness Program experience.
Until last April, Dr. Webb and her husband, Eric, a physician assistant, had been living the good life in Wyoming. When not on duty in the emergency department at Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, the Level II trauma center where both work, they took advantage of almost every outdoor activity that the American West can offer – hiking, horseback riding, fishing, gardening, even building rock walls on their mountainside property.
That all changed when Dr. Webb found a lump in her right breast. Just three months before, she’d had a normal mammogram.
The lump was not only malignant, but the cancer – a particularly aggressive form – had metastasized and spread. Surgery would be necessary, and treatment would be difficult. Services were available in Wyoming, but not easily accessible given the Webbs’ location at 6,800 feet on the side of Casper Mountain and the always imminent possibility of bad weather.
There was also the matter of daily care. “When I was diagnosed, we realized I was going to need a lot of day-to-day care,” Dr. Webb says.
With that in mind, the couple decided that Dr. Webb would seek treatment in North Carolina, probably at one of the large medical centers within driving distance of their daughter’s home in Pinehurst, while Eric Webb stayed in Wyoming and worked. They set up an appointment at Duke Medical Center, where Dr. Webb ultimately had a double mastectomy.
They expected that her treatment would be at Duke as well – until her surgeon suggested that she consider the cancer services .
“My surgeon spoke very highly of the services here,” Dr. Webb says. “It was an asset to be here in Pinehurst for my treatment.”
Once settled in Pinehurst with her daughter, Andrea Ward, a physician assistant with the FirstHealth Cardiovascular and Thoracic Center, and her husband, Russ Ward, a paramedic with the FirstHealth Transfer Center, Dr. Webb started treatment at Moore Regional – infusion chemotherapy with Ellen Willard, M.D., and radiation therapy with Stephen King, M.D.
The combination of surgery and treatment took its toll, leaving the usually fit Dr. Webb weak, drained and de-conditioned. In addition, adhesions from her bilateral mastectomy were restricting movement in the right-handed physician’s right arm.
Dr. King suggested she look into the Cancer Wellness Program as a way of regaining her stamina and improving the range of motion in her arm.
“She expressed a desire to maintain her strength, stamina and physical activity while going through her treatments,” he says. “She also wanted to do some stretching and exercises that would speed her recovery from her breast cancer surgery.”
Cinnamon LeBlanc, manager of the Center for Health & Fitness-Southern Pines, was happy to help Dr. Webb with her Cancer Wellness Program goals. Over the course of 21 sessions (three per week over seven weeks), Dr. Webb participated in a program that started slowly – five minutes on a stationary bike, five minutes on a cross-trainer/recumbent bike combination and a treadmill walk – and then progressed.
“She progressed pretty quickly,” LeBlanc says. “We want people to make use of whatever they can to make them feel good. The program is very user-friendly.”
Because the Cancer Wellness Program also includes elements of yoga and Pilates as well as information on nutrition and stress-management, Dr. Webb – like all Cancer Wellness participants – was introduced to a variety of fitness/wellness tools that she could take with her when she returned to Wyoming.
“Sherilyn used the program just like she was supposed to,” LeBlanc says. “I think all of the pieces came together at the right time. It was tough, but she came out on the other side.”
Dr. Webb, who left Pinehurst for Wyoming in late January, agrees that her Cancer Wellness participation made a real difference in her strength, stamina and upper body range of motion.
“It was very difficult to perform some of the exercises initially, but after finishing the Wellness Program, I was feeling so much better,’ she says. “I was very weak when I arrived in Pinehurst, but now I feel much stronger and healthier.”
She is just as positive about her entire FirstHealth experience.
“I’ve had chemo in three places, and this is top of the line here,” she says, “and the head of radiation department at Duke spoke very, very highly of the radiation department in Pinehurst. I’ve been impressed with how efficient the whole FirstHealth system is and how nice the employees are. Small-town kindnesses are really what make good medicine.”