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Two-Time Cancer Survivor Offers Advice for Fellow Cancer Patients

Holly Mason and Mary Alice

“I was in my late forties when I received my colon cancer diagnosis,” says Maryalice Grzesik of South Hadley. “I was very surprised.”

She says, “The first couple of days were tough. I went through feeling sad and unable to speak about the cancer without crying.”

Grzesik remembers not being happy when her doctor first recommended she have a colonoscopy to screen for cancer. Now she’s glad she listened. “Fourteen years later, I look upon her wisdom as a gift. Had I not followed her advice, I would not be here today,” says Grzesik.

Dr. Armen Asik from the Baystate Regional Cancer Program was Grzesik’s medical oncologist. “He was fabulous,” she says. “The individualized treatment plan and great care I got close to home are what made me well again.”

Diagnosis #2

This past spring, Grzesik faced cancer for a second time after a routine screening mammogram at the Baystate Breast & Wellness Center. A biopsy confirmed she had breast cancer. Thankfully, it was caught early.

“I knew right away I wanted to receive my care close to home again with the experts at the Baystate Regional Cancer Program,” she says. “I met [breast surgeon] Dr. Holly Mason and was immediately impressed with her compassionate demeanor. She explained things in a way that helped me understand every detail.”

Grzesik continues, “Everyone involved in my care—from the valet staff, to the receptionist, to the surgeons—were amazing! They patiently explained the different treatment options available to me, from a lumpectomy to a mastectomy, including the chemotherapy and radiation therapies available. Every step of my journey was choreographed with precision. Every appointment was another opportunity to ask more questions and have concerns clarified. I believe that was the key to making my journey successful.”

Grzesik opted for a lumpectomy performed using radioactive seed implantation. Radiologist Dr. Steven Allen performed the seed implantation, and Mason performed the lumpectomy.

Mason says, “Breast cancer treatment is all about teamwork, from beginning to end. Our goal at Baystate Breast & Wellness Center is to simplify the transitions between the various providers involved in a patient’s care, and to explain the roles of each provider and each kind of treatment. The time of a breast cancer diagnosis is extremely stressful; we try to reduce that stress through support, guidance, and education.”

Lessons Learned

“If I were to speak to a cancer patient today, I would tell them first, follow your doctor's instructions,” says Grzesik. “Don't let family or friends give you medical advice. The doctors are the experts.”

She continues, “I would also tell them to rely on their family and friends for comfort and support. My husband went to all my appointments. This was helpful on so many levels to me. Each person, whether it's your doctor, family member, or friend, has a unique role in your well-being.”

Adds Grzesik: “With the great staff at the Baystate Regional Cancer Program I never felt alone.”

For more information about the Baystate Regional Cancer Program or to schedule an appointment, call 413-794-9338.