Breast cancer survivor calls oncology nurse her “godsend”

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When 71-year-old Peggy Miller moved to Fishers four years ago, she didn’t want to change doctors from her small town in Glouster, Ohio.

Miller continued to be a patient of the same doctors for 50 years. That changed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2021.

In November 2020, Miller called her gynecologist, Dr. Michael Clark, in Glouster to schedule her mammogram. However, a few days before her appointment, Ohio increased its COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, and Miller didn’t want to risk traveling to the state, so her mammogram was delayed to May of this year.

After her mammogram, Miller returned to Indiana and received a call the next day encouraging her to have a follow-up appointment in Indiana because of some suspicious tissue. Miller found Dr. Kandice Ludwig at IU Health. After further testing, Miller learned she had breast cancer. There also was another suspicious area in Miller’s breast, but that turned out to be noncancerous.

Miller said that her oncology nurse navigator, Leigh Flegge-Schlie, was a “godsend” for her during the emotional time.

“The whole time this was going on, Leigh had many conversations with me, and if I couldn’t talk, I just sobbed and she took care of me,” Miller said.

After her diagnosis, Miller had some important decisions to make on whether she wanted a lumpectomy to remove the tumor or a mastectomy. She chose to have a mastectomy, because the cancer had a less chance of recurrence than a lumpectomy. Her surgery was in August at the IU Health Joe & Shelly Schwarz Cancer Center.

“When the doctor does the mastectomy, she can look to see if any lymph nodes are (affected by the cancer). I had one that (reacted to the testing dye), so they biopsied it while I was still in surgery, but it came back not cancerous,” Miller said. “The area around the tumor, she took samples of that, and none of that was cancerous, so when I met with her and Leigh, I don’t have to have radiation.”

Miller said she isn’t sure if she needs chemotherapy. A decision by her oncologist hadn’t been made as of press time.

Flegge-Schlie began working for IU Health as an oncology nurse navigator two years ago. She said her primary role is “to be people’s buddy.”

“Medically, I meet (patients) on the day of diagnosis. I meet them on that first day. And from that point to survivorship or to end of life, I’m with them,” Flegge-Schlie said. “I’m helping manage their surgical care, set up consults (with radiation or medical oncology). So, the entire time Peggy is doing her care, I am watching her care. We have a lot of conversations about the diagnosis and what does it mean. We have a lot of conversations just about anything under the sun.”

Flegge-Schlie is 26. She lives in Carmel.

For more, visit iuhealth.org.


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