Julie Eichholz’s Story

Julie Eichholz talks about her experience with Dr. James Clanahan, medical director of the Breast Health Center.

How did you hear about Dr. Clanahan?

Essentially the pathologist is the one who called me, and he had gone over everything with the radiologist in depth. And he consulted quite a few people before he brought the information to me so I was on pins and needles waiting for the information to arrive just sort of in the back of my mind knowing that this is probably gonna be a little different than what I’ve experienced before. He called on the phone…I happened to work with trauma care specialists so I work with some of the most amazing Air Force trauma care nurses and doctors, and so I pulled one into the office with me. We got the pathologist on the line he said, “Hey, I’ve got some news that you know is gonna be a little difficult to hear, but we’re gonna be here to walk you through it.” He was very reassuring, and he said, “You know, it looks to be like we could be at a stage one, but what we need you to do is we need you to follow up with,” and he suggested Dr. Clanahan’s office. Obviously Dr. Clanahan is very popular for a good reason on this side of the river. He suggested that I follow up with a breast surgeon to go into a little bit more in detail, and so that’s where we went from there.

Talk about the first meeting with Dr. Clanahan.

I have an amazing support system from the trauma care nurses and doctors. They pulled me in, and they did research with me, and they pre-positioned my questions. So they said, “Hey, this is what you’re gonna want to ask. This is probably what’s going to come next. These are the things that you need to know about.” That was a huge blessing. Actually one of them accompanied my husband and I to the doctor with us with Dr. Clanahan. We came with an entire list of questions for Dr. Clanahan, and he was very patient. He did not seem put off by all of our questions because there are so many questions once you find out about this diagnosis. It’s not so cut and dry. There’s so many different levels. There’s so many different areas, and there’s so much information to absorb, so however you can chunk that out it’s a good plan. So what I did was created our list, my husband, my mom, and my friend from work came with us, and we actually went through the long list of questions. He went through and patiently answered every single one of them. He continues to be that way today. He is just a terrific source of information. He was not at all put off by my questions, and so it was a terrific experience in that context.

Discuss your treatment plan and the care your received from Dr. Clanahan and his team.

Dr. Clanahan offered up some of the options. One was obviously a single mastectomy. I could choose to have a prophylactic or bilateral mastectomy and so my choice was and we made the choice together as a family to have a bilateral mastectomy. Even though there was no cancer present in the right at the time, I thought I would just take away the opportunity for that to happen and give myself gift of no more mammograms. We went, and we had a bilateral mastectomy, and the plan was to have immediate reconstruction. Everything looked to be stage one and so potentially no chemo, no radiation, and then the construction right away would save me having to have that later. We had the surgery, the bilateral mastectomy, and the reconstruction. Then the final pathology came back about a week or two later as stage two, which then changed the whole game. Actually chemo and radiation was back on the table, and although they don’t typically do reconstruction prior to chemo and radiation, that’s the boat that we found ourselves in at the time. So I went through chemo at Siteman Cancer Center actually and had outstanding care there. Dr. Clanahan’s staff walked me through the entire process, and I have to tell you he is the trifecta. He is a skilled surgeon. He’s compassionate, patient and caring. He makes himself accessible to his patients in a way that many surgeons don’t. So I will tell you, I could not have received any better care than with Dr. Clanahan and his office.