Wanita Raspe had a mammogram every year, did self exams, and had no known history of breast cancer in her family. This all changed when she got a call back following a routine mammogram. “They didn’t like the looks of it and wanted me to come back in for a sonogram,” recalled Wanita. “In a way, I was lucky. They found the cancer early.”
But lucky was not how Wanita always felt as she found herself hurtling down an unexpected path in life for which she did not own a map. Fortunately for Wanita, she found her compass, her bearings, through her doctors at CVMC.
Wanita immediately set up an appointment with CVMC general surgeon Dr. Mark Crane. “Even though it was just a consultation, after we talked a bit he surprised me by offering to do the biopsy right then and there in his office,” said Wanita. “I didn’t have to wait days or another week for an appointment but just got it over with.”
Dr. Crane’s upfront and straightforward approach was exactly what Wanita needed. “It somehow gave me a sense of well-being,” said Wanita. Wanita found this same style of communication when she met with Dr. John Valentine, her medical oncologist at Mountainview Medical. “Dr. Valentine told me exactly what my treatment options were and the statistics, no beating around the bush. My best odds of being cancer free 10 years from now meant chemotherapy and radiation, so the decision was a no brainer for me.” Cancer free was the destination that Wanita was set on reaching.
“Nothing about cancer treatment is comfortable, but the way Dr. Fram and his staff were so reassuring, explaining and showing me what to expect every step of the way, somehow made me feel comfortable.”
Chemotherapy was not easy, and Wanita had her share of bad moments, but she had her support network— her husband, her kids and grandchildren, her friends and her co-workers—and she had the nurses at Mountainview. “Wendy and Elaine couldn’t have taken better care of both me and my husband—this was a tough time for him too,” said Wanita. “By including him in my treatment, making sure that he not only understood everything but was comfortable too, was very important to us.”
And then there were the good moments. One of Wanita’s lovely granddaughters had beautiful long hair. “When I lost my hair, my granddaughter, who was just five at the time, wanted to give me her hair,” remembered Wanita. “My daughter told her that her hair was too young for me, but she decided all on her own that she would donate it anyway to what she called ‘lots of love’ [Locks of Love].”
The final step for Wanita on the road to being cancer free was radiation therapy. “Nothing about cancer treatment is comfortable, but the way Dr. Fram and his staff were so reassuring, explaining and showing me what to expect every step of the way, somehow made me feel comfortable,” said Wanita. When Wanita finished treatment, the entire staff presented her with an award for bravery and courage that they all signed. “They had treated me like family and this final touch really was just heart-wrenching.”
For Wanita, who was born and raised in Montpelier, being able to have all of her treatments right here in central Vermont was a huge relief. “Radiation treatments are given every day,” said Wanita. “I can’t imagine having to drive to Burlington; instead, it was just a 10 minute drive up the hill from my home.”
Recently, Wanita went back to see Dr. Fram for a follow-up appointment. “Everyone came out to greet me, give me hugs and tell me how great I looked. While I was feeling good, their enthusiasm just gave me the jolt of confidence I needed to move forward,” said Wanita. “And then Dr. Fram gave me a clean bill of health. What a gift they had all given me.”
At one point during her treatment, a friend of Wanita’s sent her a card with a message inside about the “angels in your life.” This message resonated deeply with Wanita, for despite the emotional and physical rigors she endured over the preceding months, she had met some incredible people along the way. “The whole team that took care of me at CVMC somehow turned this into a positive experience for me,” said Wanita. Today, as a reminder, Wanita carries this card about her angels with her everywhere.