Mom, daughter face breast cancer 15 years apart

In the early 2000s, Virginia
Plett watched her mother and aunt successfully undergo

breast
cancer treatment

at
MD Anderson
. So when the Kansas resident
received her own

breast
cancer diagnosis

in 2017, she knew exactly
where she was going for her treatment.

“My mother wouldn’t have stood for anything else,” jokes Virginia,
whose mom Margaret Looper has been a volunteer at MD Anderson in The
Woodlands
for the past 13 years.

Virginia called MD Anderson in The
Woodlands on a Friday, and she had an appointment that Monday. “I was
absolutely amazed,” she says.

Better breast cancer treatment options

On Feb. 27, 2017, Virginia met with Elizabeth FitzSullivan, M.D., and the rest of
her care team to discuss treatment for her HER-2 stage I breast
cancer. Immediately, she and Margaret noticed how much breast cancer
treatment has advanced in just 15 years.

“Dr. FitzSullivan was going through all of the options, and Mom
didn’t have all those options,” says Virginia, who opted to undergo a
lumpectomy, a less invasive surgery that spared most of her breast tissue.

Virginia had the surgery in March, and a month later, she then began
a 12-week chemotherapy regimen of Taxol and Herceptin®. Despite her
weekly trips to Houston and side effects such as hair loss, neuropathy, nausea and skin irritation, the school counselor never
stopped working.

“I just kept telling myself, ‘This is all good, this is all fine. I
can do this,’” she recalls.

Medical support across the miles

It also helped that Virginia could always count on her care team.

“There were a few times I had to contact the on-call doctors. Three
times the doctors sent me to the ER, and all three times, that ER
doctor was on the phone with the on-call doctor from MD Anderson, and the two of them together
decided what needed to happen to me. That was impressive— that
continuity of care even out of state,” she says.

Virginia completed chemotherapy in July and enrolled in a clinical trial with Pamela Schlembach, M.D., The trial examines the
impact of shortened but intensified radiation treatments.

“I only had to do radiation for 10 days. That was huge,” she says.
“I had minimal side effects from that. That was nice. There wasn’t any
of the burning or anything.”

A mother’s gratitude for a happy ending

Virginia is still taking Herceptin®, but her life is mostly back to
normal. Her mother couldn’t be more relieved.

“The staff of doctors that are at MD
Anderson
, they’re just wonderful. I see the difference in how
the knowledge level has changed between my cancer and Virginia’s
cancer. It was amazing to watch them,” Margaret says. “They gave us a
lot of hope, and we’re all greatly thankful.”

Request an
appointment at MD Anderson online
or by calling 1-877-632-6789.