Patient Fights Cancer in Middle of Global Health Crisis

July 21, 2020
Patti Greene and Dr. Robert Gabordi

TAMPA, Fla. (July 21, 2020) – “COVID may have saved my life.”

In the middle of the pandemic, that was the unexpected consequence for 61-year-old Patti Greene of Ruskin, the owner of a busy hair salon.

On March 27, Patti discovered a lump on her right breast during a self-examination.  Her salon was closed because of the pandemic.

If the salon was open and busy with customers, she admits she may have procrastinated in doing something about the lump.

With the unexpected free time, and on the urging of friends, she acted and had the lump examined and eventually removed at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital by Dr. Robert Gabordi, a BayCare Medical Group breast oncology surgeon and medical director of the breast program at St. Joseph’s Hospital’s Cancer Institute. St. Joseph’s is designated as a Breast Center of Excellence by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.

On May 14, Dr. Gabordi performed a successful lumpectomy which removed the cancerous lump and preserved her breast.

“I have to be careful about saying it,” Patti said. “But COVID may have saved my life.”

“I think it is a fair thing to say,” Dr. Gabordi said. “It (COVID) allowed Patti the time to take care of herself.  We were able to take her situation and utilizing a multidisciplinary approach with other breast oncologists, we were able to develop an individualized treatment plan for her despite a global pandemic.”

Dr. Gabordi said it was important that Patti acted when discovering the lump through self-examination. The cancer could have easily spread.

“It’s underappreciated how many women feel their lumps that prompt a mammogram,” he said. “It’s not always the mammogram first that catches early stage breast cancers. In this case, it was a very astute identification of a problem and it could have been much worse if she did not move forward with the follow-up.”

Patti had imaging procedures and consultations with Dr. Gabordi at St. Joseph’s Hospital-South in Riverview. Her pre-surgery testing and procedures and outpatient lumpectomy was done at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital in Tampa.

Patti admits she was originally reluctant and scared about going into health care facilities during the pandemic.

“I was a little thrown off,” she said. “All this was happening to me and it was during COVID. I did not want to get COVID. I thought, how am going to do this during COVID?”

But with each visit into a BayCare facility, Patti said she became more reassured. BayCare does screenings of anyone entering hospitals, is doing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting and using extensive personal protection equipment to protect team members and patients.

“Going into the facilities, I always felt BayCare had my back,” she said. “I felt secure. They were taking temperatures, asking questions. I realized BayCare had it under control. They were looking at everything.”

Patti was able to do her genetic testing consultations without going in a health care facility. She used a telemedicine platform through the BayCareAnywhere app to meet with BayCare Medical Group advanced practice registered nurse  Miok Ray about her genetic testing results. Genetic testing helps estimate a patient’s chance of developing other cancers by searching for specific changes in genes, chromosomes, or proteins.

“We were able to quickly do this (genetic testing consultations) through telemedicine and she was able to avoid any additional potential COVID exposure,” Ray said.

Dr. Gabordi said the prognosis for Patti is good. She does not need chemotherapy but will need radiation therapy. Radiation is done for breast cancer patients who do not undergo mastectomies for early stage breast cancer. Radiation helps with decreasing reoccurrence, he said.

“I felt I received the best care here,” Patti said. “Everyone shows so much compassion, kindness and understanding. It was a very comforting experience. I’m a survivor.”


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