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After physicians precisely targeted and removed her lung cancer, Holly Cole can outlast her younger staff at her Party City store.
As a result of back-to-back snowstorms that dumped over three feet of snow on Baltimore in 2008, Pikesville resident Holly Cole got a lucky break. After shoveling the wet, heavy snow for several hours, she felt like she was having a heart attack. Thankfully, when she went to her local emergency department, they found that her problem was due to ulcers, not heart disease. However, the CT scan did unveil a small spot on her lung.
The CT scan on that blustery winter day might have saved the nonsmoker’s life. For the next four years, regularly scheduled CT scans revealed that Cole’s lung nodule had remained stable. But in 2013, while the former ice dancing champion was judging a national skating championship, Cole received a call that the spot had changed.
“They referred me to MedStar Franklin Square, where Ruth Evans, the nurse navigator, helped me connect first with Dr. William Krimsky, an interventional pulmonologist, and then with Dr. Daniel Harley, a thoracic surgeon,” she recollects.
Daniel Harley, MD, the surgical director of the Angelos Center for Lung Diseases at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, who has been named a “Top Doc” in Baltimore magazine many times, oversees a multidisciplinary team of specialists. His leadership ensures that each patient receives a comprehensive, integrated approach to the diagnosis, treatment, care, and prevention of a wide range of lung diseases and conditions.
Cole recalls, “Dr. Harley told me that Dr. Krimsky could do a bronchoscopy to locate and dye-mark the nodule to aid in its surgical detection, and if the spot was cancerous, they could treat it surgically at the same time.”
Bronchoscopy allows physicians to view the bronchi and bronchioles (the tiny airways that connect to the lung sacs) by passing a thin tube that contains a small light and camera through the nose or mouth into these passageways.
“Our Center operates like a major league team, with an approach that is far more advanced than the bronchoscopies offered at most facilities,” Dr. Harley observes.
“We use two special components—first, an endobronchial ultrasound that allows us to biopsy the nodule without surgery.”
He continues, “Second, we use Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy™ that can access outer areas of the lung. We load a special CT scan into the bronchoscope that guides us in 3-D and in real time. It’s like having GPS inside the body. We were the initial team reporting on this special approach to place fiducials in peripheral lung cancers for Stereotactic Radiosurgery at the Society of Thoracic Surgeons in 2009.”
Explains Dr. Harley, “Our pathologists immediately evaluated the biopsy and determined that it was a lung cancer. We wheeled Mrs. Cole to the OR while she was still under anesthesia and performed a lobectomy, which removed the cancerous portion of her lung.”
The navigational bronchoscopy allowed Dr. Harley to precisely pinpoint the cancerous area and initially remove a smaller piece of Cole’s lung to confirm the diagnosis of lung cancer. The coordinated approach also allowed Cole to go under anesthesia only once for both procedures, and avoid the stress of coming back on another date for the surgery.
Not Feeling Her Age
Cole recalls, “Dr. Harley is a soft-spoken, gentle man with a good sense of humor, and he put everyone in my family at ease during the entire process. He walked us through the procedure step by step and assured me that I’d be able to perform all my usual activities, though I might get a bit out of breath walking up stairs.”
She adds, “The entire staff at MedStar Franklin Square was accommodating and friendly—just really nurturing. I was up and walking the next morning and the ICU nurses were very flexible. The whole experience was very calming.”
Today, Cole, who co-owns a Party City store in Pasadena with her husband, is doing so well that— at age 55—with part of one lung removed, she was able to work 14-hour days for several weeks during her shop’s busiest season—Halloween.
“I don’t feel any bit of my age,” she exclaims. “I saw Dr. Harley a few weeks ago for a follow-up appointment and he said I’m doing great. He made it a very pleasant experience. Thanks to him and the entire team at the Angelos Center for Lung Diseases, I have my normal life back. If it weren’t for the Center and that snowstorm, my cancer would have been more advanced.”
Cole’s experience is typical of the responsive, team-oriented approach at the Lung Center. “Dr. Krimsky’s office is upstairs from mine,” notes Dr. Harley. “He often walks people needing a surgical consult down to my office and I never turn them away. In turn, I will walk patients up to his office knowing that they will be seen that day. Patients who come to our Center can often see all of their providers in one visit. And our nurse navigator, Ruth Evans, guides patients throughout their care so they don’t get lost. Our team is truly dedicated.”
Take Charge of Your Health
Cole and her husband met while training at an ice skating rink in Delaware, where they were each skating with other partners. In a fateful coincidence, they both lost their partners around the same time and started skating–and falling in love–with each other. After marrying in 1982, they had two daughters, one of whom recently gave birth to their first grandchild. In 1996, they were national ice dancing champions in the adult division. Today, Cole is a U.S. skating judge, while her husband is a judge for skaters all over the world.
Cole’s experience taking care of her late husband during an illness years ago taught her to be proactive when it came to her own health. “I’m glad I thought enough of my health to get it checked out. I learned from my husband’s illness to take charge of my own health. It showed me how important it is to listen to your body.”
In the past, getting a diagnosis of lung cancer was often devastating. Today, catching it early, getting the right medical team and using the latest technology makes the diagnosis far more promising.
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