Stronger Together: Overcoming obstacles through home health

Read the inspirational story about how our patient, Darla, was diagnosed with breast cancer and ultimately overcame it to become stronger and tougher.

“It’s cancerous.” Those were the words that changed preschool teacher, Darla B.’s life the minute they were uttered by the doctor.

In July 2020, Darla went to her annual OB/GYN appointment and as the doctor was conducting her routine appointment she felt a lump on Darla’s right breast. After the doctor noticed that, she scheduled Darla for a mammogram and a sonogram and Darla was shocked when she heard the news that it looked cancerous. The doctor immediately scheduled a biopsy and two days after, she heard those dreaded words, “It’s cancerous.”


In September, Darla had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery with

expanders. She also had 20 lymph nodes removed, four were cancerous. Darla stated that her body healed pretty well from the surgery and the weekly expander fills went smoothly. She started chemotherapy by the end of October and by the third week her hair started coming out in clumps.


Her chemotherapy caused her to experience extreme fatigue, however she was never physically sick. Darla thought she was cruising along her recovery journey until things quickly took a turn. At the end of December, she noticed redness and warmth to the touch on her right breast. She showed this to OT, Christina K. and they immediately contacted Darla’s plastic surgeon who said she should be sent to the emergency room. Once at the ER, she had a CT scan done and she was diagnosed with cellulits around the expander. She was hospitalized for a few days and then sent home with two weeks worth of antibiotics. Two days after completing the antibiotics, the infection was back. Darla’s plastic surgeon tried a number a things in an effort to save the expander, but ultimately the infection had gotten so bad Darla needed emergency surgery to remove the expander.


When Darla was able to safely resume therapy post surgery, she started with PT, Rachel D. Rachel was able to provide Darla with some motivation, compassion and care that allowed Darla to continue her fight against the cancer. Two months later, Darla had her implant exchange surgery and resumed chemotherapy. Her last treatment was on March 8th and her radiation was started in April.

How did home health nursing, PT and OT help you along the way?

Darla: I don’t know what I would have done without home health during this journey! My surgery was nine hours and I was released the next day. I was extremely nervous about going home. I called home health and expressed my concerns and they sent a nurse out on Sunday. Tina, RN, was great - she eased my mind and educated us on taking care of the drains and incisions. Laura, LPN, and Sandy, RN, kept me reassured on my healing process in between doctor appointments. They also shared nutritional information and positive stories to help keep me uplifted.


Battling cancer is hard and then add COVID-19 to the mix...wow. Having a kind and friendly face in my home made such a big

difference in my days. They were much more than therapists, they were my cheerleaders! When I started therapy, I could barely raise my arms or take care of myself - I couldn’t wash my hair, I couldn’t rotate my left shoulder to the back without pain, I couldn’t reach things that were overhead, I couldn’t put things in or out of the oven, and I couldn’t vacuum or do most housework. Now, I almost have full range of motion in both arms!


What advice do you have for other women going through a similar situation as yourself?

My advice is be positive and hopeful. Believe me, some days that was a struggle but don’t let it keep you down. Listen to your body. When you are tired, rest - you need it. Do your stretches. The more mobility I regained, the better I felt about myself and the power I was taking away from the cancer. Stay hydrated. It helps flush away the chemo and keeps energy levels up. Find a support group. Just knowing that what you are feeling is normal and that others have overcome this disease is so inspiring. And to me the words...one day at a time...were never more true. It’s a journey. Going through breast cancer is liking going through the grieving process. You have lost a piece of you. It’s very hard but every little accomplishment for the day is a victory.

About Advanced Home Health


Advanced Home Health is a local, family-owned, home health and home care provider located in Western PA, servicing Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, and Washington Counties.


To learn more visit: www.advancedhomehealth.com or call 412-344-4100.