Sherolyn Harmon, Lung Cancer
"I have to really thank Sylvester because when I came here, they built me up."
When One Door Closes, Another Opens
In her mid-forties, Sherolyn Harmon thought life was over. A chest x-ray revealed a cancerous lung tumor so large that her first doctors told her they could not perform surgery to remove it. Sherolyn, instead, thought she would be resigned to palliative chemotherapy treatments, with the goal of reducing the tumor’s size and, maybe, prolonging life.
That all changed the day she met Luis Raez, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine in the Division of Hematology-Oncology and co-leader of the Lung Cancer Site Disease Group at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“I met Sherolyn while doing rounds one day, and she was crying because she thought she had no options,” Dr. Raez says. “She was extremely young for a lung cancer patient. Usually, lung cancer is diagnosed in one’s 70s. And she was not a heavy smoker. When they diagnosed her, doctors told her the tumor, a stage III cancer, was too large to remove and incurable.”
“I have to thank Sylvester because when I came here they built me up.“After reviewing Sherolyn’s tests, Dr. Raez came up with a new treatment plan. The Sylvester team would use an aggressive, but proven chemotherapy to decrease the size of the tumor. Dr. Raez collaborated with Christiane Takita, M.D., assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at the Miller School of Medicine, to formulate a final plan, including radiation, and the remnants of the tumor were removed by surgery.
The plan worked. Sherolyn, now 50, has been cancer free since 2006.
“I have to really thank Sylvester and thank Dr. Raez because I was really a mess. I was a total mess, and once I came here they just built me up,” she says.
Sherolyn says fear dominated her when she heard the diagnosis and first treatment plan. However, the fear went away once she talked with Dr. Raez.
“It’s very important for a patient to be comfortable and relaxed with their doctor. With Dr. Raez, I was so relaxed—not scared like I was at the other hospital,” Sherolyn says. “He is very caring. He takes time to sit down and explain things and show his concern. Once I was around him, I felt like God placed me in good hands.”
During the treatment process, Sherolyn’s faith gave her strength.
“God is love, and these doctors have love within them, to help other people,” she adds. “Love conquers all.”
Dr. Raez emphasizes that it is important for cancer patients—and their doctors—to remain hopeful.
“You can never give up hope. It doesn’t matter how difficult the circumstances,” Dr. Raez says. “This goes for doctors, too. Sometimes, even doctors give up too easily. We owe it to our patients to think outside the box.”