CLOVIS, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – When Nancy Garcia was diagnosed with breast cancer, like so many others, she felt shocked, anxious, and overwhelmed.

But when Nancy came to the Community Cancer Institute, she says her care team stayed by her side, helping her navigate every step of the breast cancer journey. Nancy Garcia was doing a self-exam when she felt a marble-like lump. She called her primary care doctor and underwent a mammogram and biopsy.

“On Oct. 25, 2022, I received a call from the office where they did the mammogram and they informed me that I had cancer,” she said. “I just felt like my world was falling down, I felt like I was going to die. And in that moment, I had two options, to give up or to fight for my life; so I decided to fight for my life.”

Nancy was referred to another cancer facility in Fresno but says she was still struggling to get answers.

“It’s like walking alone on a road where there was too many questions without answers and no directions.”

After talking to a friend, she was connected to the Community Cancer Institute in Clovis where she was connected with the nurse navigation team.

“We try to meet with the patients as early on as possible in their journey and we are a single point of contact for them to be able to reach out to throughout this whole journey,” said JJessica Salsberry, Nurse Navigator, Community Cancer Institute. “We are here to help educate them and provide emotional support; we serve as a bridge between them and all their care providers to help make sure that their concerns and needs are being heard and met.”

Jessica Salsberry is a nurse navigator at the community cancer institute and part of Nancy’s care team.

“I was able to be that support person for her; one of the first things I was able to do was get her a referral for one of our registered dieticians and we were able to get her a referral to our palliative care clinic where they do acupuncture,” she said.

“Having everything under one roof is a blessing because you can make one or more appointments on the same day without worrying about driving from one office to another office,” said Nancy.

“We take care of every single patient here as if they are a family member and we kind of think of them as our family member is going through as what this person is going through,” said Dr. Dina Ibrahim, Oncology and Hematology, Community Health Partners.

Dr. Dina Ibrahim is a board-certified medical oncologist and hematologist who was part of Nancy’s care team.

“Once someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, the next step is going to be what stage of breast cancer is the patient having,” she said. “And the other things that is very important in that initial period also to figure out the nature of the cancer because some breast cancer are less aggressive than other breast cancer.”

Nancy was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, a less common form seen, found in younger women and associated with a hereditary, genetic mutation, the brace-1 gene.

“Typically, the requirement for that is what we call neoadjuvant chemotherapy, where patient receives chemotherapy prior to surgery to try to shrink the tumor down,” said Dr. Dina. “After she was on the chemotherapy for probably three months, she started to have quite a bit of issues with the treatment side effects related to the treatment which ended up needing to go to the emergency room on multiple occasions. So, we did an ultrasound on her breast and found that she had really a very good response to the treatment. “Also, we discussed, among the other specialists, if surgery can be performed at this point, and that’s what exactly happened.”

“We got her ready for surgery and discussed several options,” said Dr. Deborah Gumina, Surgical Oncology, Community Health Partners.

Surgical oncologist Dr. Debora Gumina is one of the founding members of the Marjorie E. Radin Breast Care Center at Clovis community, and together with Dr. Ibrahim, developed the best course of treatment for Nancy.

“In Nancy’s case, she has a terrific response to chemotherapy and we discussed breast preservation and doing a lumpectomy and she was given an option of mastectomy with or without reconstruction,” said Dr. Gumina. “”Because Nancy was facing some significant cardiac issues at the time, she did not want to undergo radiation, and so she chose a nipple-sparing mastectomy.”

And today, Nancy is cancer-free.

“I feel blessed, I feel supported, their services are amazing. I’m glad and I say thank you God because I got connected to this place,” she said.