Carolyn Holley: A preventative approach for best possible outcomes

When Carolyn Holley was first diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, a trusted friend recommended Karmanos Cancer Institute located in Detroit.

“From the moment I stepped into Karmanos Cancer Institute, I knew I was at the right place. I could tell right away,” she said.

Despite being diagnosed with cancer at 75 years old, she was “not throwing in the towel.” Her fight began when Holley was evaluated and advised by Robert Morris, M.D., leader of the gynecologic multidisciplinary team at Karmanos. Widely recognized by his iconic bow ties and decorative socks, Holley trusted Dr. Morris, at every step of her journey. “Whatever Dr. Morris recommended for treatment, I would do it,” she said.

Holley is no stranger to cancer. Both her mother and sister battled breast cancer. Family history can be a risk factor and Holley knew she could be vulnerable to the disease. Individuals with a family history of cancer have a 25 percent greater risk of developing cancer. For this reason, Karmanos offers a screening a prevention program designed to promote early detection. For cancer patients, screening is especially important since some forms of cancer can cause others. This is the case for ovarian cancer, which can spread to the breast. Knowing this, Dr. Morris recommended a mammogram.

“Rather than wait for a diagnosis, Dr. Morris helped me to schedule an annual mammogram, so that he could identify little changes. I wish every doctor would take that preventative approach,” Holley said.

Prevention and early detection are crucial in the fight against cancer, since cancer is most treatable in its early stages. Many forms of cancer do not display symptoms at their onset, so screening tests are used to monitor for warning signs.

For Holley, her annual mammograms have shown no signs of breast cancer.

Karmanos Cancer Institute offers annual mammograms to all women, not just cancer patients. Prevention has never been more important, and at Karmanos, we have highly-trained experts who utilize the latest technology in breast cancer detection.

After rounds of successful chemotherapy infusions, Holley continues to visit Karmanos for monthly follow-up care. Battling cancer can be challenging at any time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some to hesitate about seeking care. When it came to treatment at Karmanos, Holley had no fear or reservations. “Of all the places to be treated during a pandemic, I didn’t have to worry at all at Karmanos Cancer Institute,” she said.

Like hospitals around the world, Karmanos has adapted to accommodate patients during the coronavirus pandemic. We have implemented many new safety measures in response to the pandemic including screening everyone who enters our facilities, conducting additional sanitization, providing appropriate personal protective equipment and testing patients before surgery. Additionally, since many cancer treatments can cause a person’s immune system to weaken, Karmanos staff members are accustomed to taking abundant safety precautions. Handwashing, social distancing and masking are now part of daily life for many but these habits have been practiced at Karmanos for many years.

Every member of the Karmanos team is committed to providing safe and outstanding care. From the valet to the oncologists, our team recognizes Holley as a fierce fighter. Every time she pulls onto the campus of Karmanos in her signature red Volkswagen bug, Holley is welcomed by a team who truly cares about her.

In addition to the Karmanos staff, Holley maintains deep friendships with other patients she met during her cancer treatment. She has become an affectionate advocate for Karmanos. “Everyone in my hometown knows I only go to Karmanos. I am so thankful that I found Karmanos. The best part about that place is that everybody smiles. Do you know what a difference that makes during a cancer journey? It truly is a wonderful atmosphere.”

Karmanos Cancer Institute focuses on treating the whole patient, not just their cancer. Integrative therapies are used in combination with cancer treatment to respond to the patients’ physical and emotional needs. These therapies place an emphasis on decreasing stress and anxiety, especially while facing a cancer diagnosis and the coronavirus.

As in the case of Carolyn Holley, every patient at Karmanos receives unmatched attention from a specialized team of experts. The multidisciplinary teams at Karmanos Cancer Institute provide a preventative approach, designed to achieve the best possible outcome. We offer the best possible treatment for our patients and in return, patients like Holley offer us inspiration and hope.

To request an appointment, please go here, or call a representative at 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266).