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Local Physician Gets Taste of Her Own Medicine

OB/GYN’s Mother & Mother-in-Law Diagnosed with Devastating Disease

Joliet, IL (April 6, 2011)— Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year alone. These statistics mean that physicians deal with cancer a lot and are continuously studying the treatments available for their patients. However, for one local doctor, the lessons have gone beyond clinical care. This past year, Dr. Nicole Gress not only assisted one of  her physician partners, in her battle with breast cancer, but she also fought alongside both her mother and mother-in-law in their own battles against this painful disease.

“I felt like I was surrounded by breast cancer,” said Dr. Nicole Gress, obstetrician/ gynecologist on staff at Silver Cross Hospital.

gress2Dr. Gress’ mother, Cynthia Moskal, always knew she had a high risk for both ovarian and breast cancer.  Since her sister past away at age 30 from breast cancer, Moskal decided to get the BRCA Screening. Unfortunately, she tested positive for the Triple Negative BRCA gene, increasing her risk for cancer to 87%.

“I was always waiting for WHEN I would get cancer, not IF I would get cancer” said Moskal. “It was only a matter of time.”

In January after discovering her BRCA status, she had surgery to remove both of her ovaries.  After surgery she had the recommended breast MRI screening, which showed an abnormality. Silver Cross physicians moved very quickly to perform a biopsy and diagnose the cancer. A few weeks later she underwent a double mastectomy.  Her treatment was, and continues to be aggressive. Despite this, Moskal is hopeful. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team to take care of me. Everyone from the nurses and staff to the physicians were phenomenal at Silver Cross,” Moskal says.

For Jan Gress, Dr. Gress’ mother-in-law, the chance of breast cancer seemed slim. She was young and healthy with no family history of the disease. She never missed her annual physical and mammogram each July. However, while Moskal was first learning of her extremely high risk of breast cancer, Gress discovered an odd lump in her underarm. Concerned, she immediately scheduled an appointment with her physician. Within a few days, she received a biopsy with Dr. Reza Gamagami, surgeon on staff at Silver Cross.  The worst was true.  Gress was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. She then had a lumpectomy and completed chemo and radiation therapy. Her last radiation treatment was the day after Moskal’s mastectomy.

“Initially, I would go on-line and get so scared reading the information I found,” Gress said.  “I felt so isolated in my diagnosis.  The more I read, the more scared I was. You just have to deal with it day by day and you can survive.”

For all three women, coming face to face with other women who understood the journey and struggles of coping with breast cancer and all of its side effects really helped guide them through the process.  

“It really important for me to guide my mother-in-law through her biopsy and support my mom while she was having her hysterectomy,” says Dr. Gress.  “As a physician, I understood the clinical data, but the challenge was guiding them through the chemo and all of the side effects. That was something I couldn’t really explain but something the Silver Cross Breast Cancer Support Group could do.” 

Over a year later, the ladies are still working towards becoming cancer-free and are excited to be first time grandmothers this May. While the fear of cancer may not always be gone, Jan, Nicole and Cynthia know they have the strength and support to fight this battle. Both Jan and Cynthia remain active in the support group, empowering themselves by empowering newly diagnosed women. “I believe there is a comfort level when you can relate to another individual who may be experiencing what you are about to face” shares Cynthia, “I really encourage women to join us and use us as guidance to walk through this life-changing process.” Jan agrees, “No one expects to get cancer and when you hear those words, often you are blind-sided with the diagnosis and totally unprepared to make the major decisions that you must face in the first few weeks.  Luckily for me I found the Support Group and other ladies facing the same journey.  It was so comforting to be around other gals with the same fears, emotions and questions.”

About the Breast Cancer Support Group
I Can Cope, offered by the American Cancer Society and Silver Cross Hospital, is an educational program for women facing breast cancer. This program covers topics relevant to the cancer experience and offers practical help in coping with some of the emotional issues resulting from a cancer diagnosis. It is women supporting women, and meets the last Tuesday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Silver Cross Center for Women’s Health on the replacement hospital campus, 1900 Silver Cross Blvd., New Lenox.  For more information or to register to attend, visit www.Imatter.silvercross.org or call 1-888-660-HEAL (4325).

About the Silver Cross Center for Women’s Health
The Silver Cross Center for Women’s Health represents a unique concept in women’s healthcare. The Center was the first in the region to provide an advanced level of diagnostics coupled with specialized care for women in one convenient location. The Center is located at 1870 Silver Cross Blvd. Set in a soothing, spa-like environment, the Silver Cross Center for Women’s Health offers a variety of healthcare services designed around a woman’s needs and lifestyle. The Center’s crown jewel is full field digital mammography—the latest breast cancer testing available. In addition to digital mammography, the innovative center offers women diagnostic breast ultrasound and breast biopsies, bone densitometry, and baseline heart screenings. Take a video tour of the center at www.IMatter.silvercross.org.To schedule an appointment at the Silver Cross Center for Women’s Health, call (815) 740-7076. A physician’s order is required. If you don’t have a physician, call the free Silver Cross Physician Referral Service at 1-888-660-HEAL (4325).

About Silver Cross Hospital
Silver Cross Hospital is a not-for-profit health care provider serving Will County and southwest suburban communities since 1895. Silver Cross has been recognized as a Thomson Reuters 100 Top Hospitals National Award winner for the last six consecutive years and a one of America’s Most Customer Friendly Hospitals by the American Alliance of Healthcare Providers. With nearly 3,000 employees, physicians and volunteers, Silver Cross operates a 304-bed acute care hospital and 10 satellite facilities providing outpatient services and physician offices. Construction is underway to build a state-of-the-art replacement hospital opening in 2012 in New Lenox. To learn more about Silver Cross Hospital or a referral to a physician on staff, visit www.silvercross.org or call 1-888-660-HEAL (4325).

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