Emili Garcia's Story

Colorectal Cancer Guides Patient to New Calling

So Long, Spicy Foods

When some spicy food caused severe rectal bleeding, 36-year-old Emili Garcia knew something was wrong. She saw her primary care physician, who immediately referred Emili to Brian Longendyke, D.O., a gastroenterologist. Dr. Longendyke performed a colonoscopy—an internal examination of the colon (large intestine) and rectum. It was then that he discovered a tumor on Emili's colon.

Janette Gaw, M.D., colorectal surgeon, saw Emili just one day after the colonscopy. Without health insurance, Emili knew cancer treatment would be financially impossible. Dr. Gaw put her in touch with Paul Whitear, coordinator of the Salvation Army's We Care program—which coordinates specialty medical care given voluntarily to medically needy, uninsured, unemployed people in our community. The program provided Emili with immediate financial assistance for treatments at Lee Memorial Health System's Regional Cancer Center.

Under the medical supervision of Amy Fox, M.D., radiation oncologist, and Silvia Romero, M.D., oncologist/hematologist, Emili began chemotherapy and radiation treatments in January 2011. She met Laurie Wise, RN, colorectal cancer nurse navigator, and the other oncology nurses at Regional Cancer Center.

Navigating Through Cancer

As a colorectal cancer nurse navigator, Laurie works with newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families to provide education, support, access to financial assistance, and information about the disease and treatment options. "My goal is to make this journey as smooth as possible, while delivering individualized and supportive care to each patient and their family. We seek to remove barriers to care so that the patient is assured the highest quality, personal and compassionate care for their cancer."

"They gave me such wonderful care," Emili says of the nursing staff at Regional Cancer Center. "They talked to me the whole time, so I wouldn't focus on the pain. They would even make sure to save me lunch since I always came for chemo in the middle of the day."

A Positive Outlook

In April 2011, Dr. Gaw performed surgery and confirmed that Emili's tumor was gone. "She'll need continued monitoring and vigilance," Dr. Gaw says.

Now cancer-free, Emili maintains the positive attitude she kept throughout her treatment. She has changed her eating habits to improve her health. She is an active member at Faith Fellowship World Outreach Ministry, where Pastor John and Pamela Antonucci, along with Emili, are driven to help others the way her medical team helped Emili.

"I believe God put me through this so that I could help others," Emili says. "Now that I'm done with treatment, I plan to go back to school to get my license in Christian counseling."