A Patient Story for National Cancer Survivors Month

June 14, 2024
Liz, right, and her husband Dan at St. Joseph's-Hospital-North. "St. Joseph's Hospital-North, BayCare Health System" and BayCare logo are on the wall behind them. They are cheek-to-cheek.
Liz Winter, right, and her husband, Dan, at St. Joseph's Hospital-North.

June is National Cancer Survivors Month celebrating those who have fought the disease, those currently in treatment and those living with, through and beyond the disease. The month raises awareness of the ongoing challenges cancer survivors face and honors life. At BayCare hospitals' infusion centers and hospital units, patients celebrate the end of chemotherapy treatment by ringing a bell three times after reading the “Ring of Hope” poem. Infusion team members cheer and applaud them during the ceremony.

Liz Winter, a breast cancer survivor and BayCare's director of neuroscience services, rang the bell in 2023, at St. Joseph's Hospital-North's infusion center in Lutz, Florida. But Winter has a realistic and prudent understanding and approach to being a cancer survivor.

Ironically, a scratch by her kitten was one of several incidents that led to her getting a mammogram. The mammogram showed inflammatory breast cancer, an extremely aggressive form of the disease.

Three team members, two females and a male, in front of the bell in the infusion center lobby. There are also pink balloons with them and artwork on the wall.
Liz and Dan Winter (center) celebrate with the dedicated team at St. Joseph's Hospital-North infusion center after Liz rang the bell in 2023. Team members pictured from left: Diana Ortiz, Liena Perez, Dan, Liz, Jeannine Flood and Jacob Goetz.

Her cancer journey was led by doctors Yasmeen Hashimie (hematology and oncology), Robert Gabordi (breast surgery) and Roberto Diaz (radiation oncology). Winter had her chemotherapy at St. Joseph's Hospital-North and her surgery was performed at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital in Tampa. She received radiation treatments at Clearwater's Morton Plant Hospital.

“Ringing the bell was an incredible memory for me, but it also signified a whole new journey ahead," Winter said. “While the effects of this disease, for some, may last a lifetime, there is always hope and support.”

Winter said the mental component of being a survivor is sometimes harder than the physical aspect. “Physically, I may look and feel fine, which to many signifies that you’re done (with cancer), but in reality, you may not be. It is critical to stay engaged with your mental and physical health and take the time you need to heal."


Split photo. Left, Liz with long, flowing blonde hair. Right, a bald Liz.
Winter is pictured at various stages of her cancer journey.

Winter said a tremendous resource she uses for support is BayCare’s Cancer Patient Support Services (CaPSS) program. CaPSS offers supportive programs and services to cancer patients, family members, caregivers and loved ones.

“An important part of cancer survivorship is understanding the psychological distress that accompanies a cancer diagnosis,” said Jessica Kilgore, a licensed mental health counselor with CaPSS. “Liz has expressed her gratitude in having access to individuals who understand the emotional component of cancer that begins with diagnosis, is felt through treatment, and continues beyond the ringing of the bell. The CaPSS program at St. Joseph's Hospital offers counseling services that provide a safe, supportive and confidential environment for patients to share thoughts and emotions related to their diagnosis, treatment, recovery and survivorship.”

“With cancer you have to just keep going,” Winter said. “You have to remind yourself that protecting your physical and mental health is essential. We have outstanding resources within BayCare to help and I could not be more honored to have received my cancer care from BayCare.”

BayCare’s Network of Cancer Care is found in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties. The network encompasses hospitals, surgery centers, breast centers, radiation services, mastectomy resources, cancer treatment centers, infusion, chemotherapy centers, oncology physician offices, patient resources, and support group locations. 


Learn more about BayCare's oncology services here.

More information about breast self-exams and mammograms at BayCare can be found here.

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