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Theresa Santiago

A Bumpy Path to Recovery

Holy Name Cancer Patient stories - Theresa Santiago

Few people travel a straight path when dealing with serious illnesses. There are almost always ups and down, twists and reversals, usually when least expected. For Theresa Roman Santiago, her route was particularly treacherous, though her journey did end at a great destination – healthy and happy.

Theresa was 40 years old, married and had a 9-year-old daughter, with hopes and plans of having more children. She also had small uterine fibroids. In 2018, over a period of eight months, they grew dramatically, caused her to have longer menstrual cycles and her stomach to protrude. Her gynecologist at the time gave her no options except to say that she needed the fibroids removed as well as a full hysterectomy.

“It took me completely off guard,” Theresa said. “I was devastated.”

Things Start Looking Up
A friend recommended Dr. Sharyn Lewin, Medical Director of Gynecologic Oncology at Holy Name Medical Center. Theresa’s first visit made her feel like she was in good hands, literally.

“When Dr. Lewin first came into the office, she went to shake my hand and put her other hand over mine,” Theresa said. “With my hand between hers, I felt like together we would figure this out and although I was still nervous, I was much more at ease.”

Dr. Lewin laid out a plan that encompassed Theresa’s lifestyle and hopes for the future. Theresa’s fibroids were large, potentially cancerous and needed to come out. But a full hysterectomy wasn’t necessary at that point.

“When Dr. Lewin did the surgery, she came out and told my husband and mom while I was on the table that something didn’t look right with the fibroids but there was still a chance they might not be cancerous so we could wait before doing a hysterectomy, Theresa said. “So that’s what we did – we waited.”

A New Diagnosis

A week later, Dr. Lewin told Theresa she had endometrial stromal sarcoma cancer – cancer of the uterine lining – and needed a hysterectomy. Then she hugged “me like she was a life-long friend. I was a mess,” Theresa said. “But every time I spoke to Dr. Lewin, she was reassuring and told me I was going to be okay.”

Theresa needed time to heal from her fibroid surgery so she waited a month before having surgery to remove the cancer. The procedure went off without any complications.

“Recovery was tough and I was in a lot of pain,” she said. “But everyone at Holy Name did everything they could to keep me comfortable. The nurses were phenomenal and I’ve never met nurses and doctors before that actually care about their patients as people.”

Finally, A Bright Future

After all the ups and downs, Theresa finally got some joyful news: Dr. Lewin was able to remove all the cancer and no further treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation were necessary. Though she was happy, some moments of fear and anxiety would creep into her thoughts so she started attending some programs through Cancer Support Community at Holy Name.

“Having cancer was a dark moment in my life but talking to people in the Cancer Support Community really helped,” Theresa said. “I’m just about two years out from my surgery and my scans and blood work are clear. I live my healthiest and happiest life now.”

Learn more about uterine cancer treatment at Holy Name