Cancer patient transformed by care at the Helen F. Graham Center

Cancer patient transformed by care at the Helen F. Graham Center

Regina Marini credits the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center with not only providing her with excellent cancer treatment; but also with giving her a hopeful new outlook on life.

Regina Marini received much more than expert, compassionate care for breast cancer at Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center.

She gained new, healthy habits and a positive outlook she will carry with her always.

“The Helen F. Graham Center gave me my life back—but better,” she says. “I am everything that I used to be, and more.”

Marini, 59, was diagnosed in October 2009, after she discovered a lump in her left breast when she was playing with her miniature pinscher puppy, Cocoa.

“She put her paw on my chest and I felt as if a knife was going through me,” she recalls.

A biopsy revealed aggressive Stage 3 breast cancer, requiring immediate surgery followed by chemotherapy, radiation and targeted treatment with Herceptin, a drug that inhibits the proteins that can fuel cancer growth.

At the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, patients are guided through treatment by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, case workers and other professionals. They explained Marini’s treatment, answered her questions and made her appointments. She also met with a nutritionist who educated her on the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise.

“I put myself in their hands, and I didn’t have to worry about anything,” she recalls. “If you know what is coming, it is not so scary.”

Marini, who lives in Hockessin, works for New Castle County. She appreciated that she could consult with her doctors, as well as undergo tests and treatments, all in one convenient setting close to home.

“I would walk from my doctor’s appointments to my tests and stop at the nice little café for lunch,” she says.

In addition to the latest in medical treatment, Marini says she received nurturing support for her spirit that helped her to maintain a positive attitude at a challenging time.

“The staff is upbeat,” she says. “They always have a joke for you, a hug or a smile.”

Marini took advantage of many of the resources for breast-cancer patients at Christiana Care, including Look Good, Feel Better, where she learned to apply makeup and use scarves to counteract the changes in her skin and hair caused by chemotherapy.

“When I walked out, I was beautiful,” she recalls. “I was afraid that was all behind me.”

When Marini was going through chemotherapy, she found comfort in Paws for People, a program in which dogs are brought in to interact with patients.

“When you see a dog come in, it’s like the sun coming out,” she says.

In October, a year after her diagnosis, she was one of more than 300 women who attended the first Girls Night Out at Christiana Care, a free event featuring lectures on breast-cancer diagnosis and prevention, and the role that genetics plays in cancer prevention.

Today, Marini feels stronger and healthier than she did before she had cancer. She eats more vegetables and foods high in fiber and is saying “no thanks” to junk food. She walks at least three miles every other day.

“It is not fun to have cancer,” she says. “But I learned that there is light at the end of it all, thanks to the wonderful care I had at Christiana Care.”