The Meaning of Care Magazine
Central Nebraska Cancer Survivor ‘Forever Grateful’ for Being Referred to Methodist’s Gynecologic Oncology SpecialistsPublished: Dec. 20, 2023
Jumping in the car for a drive through central Nebraska. Finding new camping spots.
Those are a couple of Pat Spore’s favorite things to do with her husband, Chuck. But a 2 ½-hour journey to Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center (MECC) last summer wasn’t a trip they expected to take.
During the spring of 2022, Pat, 69, wasn’t feeling like herself and decided to visit her primary care provider in Hastings, Nebraska.
She received a CT scan, and within a couple of hours, she was asked to come back to the clinic.
“I thought, ‘Well, that’s not a good sign,’” Pat said.
The CT scan revealed a football-sized tumor in her abdomen.
The word “cancer” wasn’t unfamiliar to Pat. In 2010 she had a hysterectomy, and biopsy results indicated that she had endometrial stromal sarcoma. At the time, she'd been told the surgery removed all of the disease. Unfortunately, the cancer recurred.
“It was such a shock when I found out that I had it again,” she said.
Not long after receiving her CT scan results, Pat had an appointment with medical oncologist Mehmet Sitki Copur, MD, the medical director of oncology at Morrison Cancer Center in Hastings.
During that meeting, Dr. Copur sent a picture of the scan to Methodist gynecologic oncologist Niyati Nadkarni, MD, because he thought she could help.
With nearly 30 years of experience as an oncologist in central Nebraska, Dr. Copur has developed many working relationships with physicians in Omaha, including Methodist’s gynecologic oncology and head and neck oncology teams.
“In a small town, you can only provide so much,” he said. “When you need that upper specialty care, you need to have collaborative connections.”
And those contacts meant the world to Pat.
“It gave me reassurance that he had the capability to find someone quickly and that he knew how well they did their job,” she said.
Just a few days after her appointment with Dr. Copur in Hastings, Pat and her husband made the drive to MECC to meet Dr. Nadkarni. Because of the size of the tumor, it didn’t take long for her to inform Pat that she’d need surgery. But successfully removing it wasn’t a guarantee.
“I told her that it was either going to be a shorter case or a longer case depending on if we could surgically remove it,” Dr. Nadkarni said.
“I appreciated her honesty because I don’t want people telling me something that’s not true,” Pat said. “She was very caring, but she was very upfront about it.”
According to Dr. Nadkarni, if the tumor wasn’t removed, Pat’s body may have shut down.
“Her bowel likely would’ve been disrupted and stopped functioning properly,” she said. “She would’ve become malnourished and may have eventually died.”
In June 2022, Dr. Nadkarni, with assistance from gynecologic oncologist Jennifer Ducie, MD, and other surgical support staff members, successfully removed the tumor and cleared out all of the disease. The surgery involved multiple bowel resections and an ileostomy – creating an opening in the abdominal wall to excrete waste.
Pat returned to her home in Hastings about a week after surgery. She needed only oral anti-estrogen medication and follow-ups every few months with Dr. Copur in Hastings and Dr. Nadkarni in Omaha. Pat received a second surgery to reverse the ileostomy in January 2023 at Methodist Hospital.
Dr. Nadkarni said she may not have been able to remove the tumor if Dr. Ducie hadn’t played a major role in the case.
Dr. Ducie joined the Methodist team in 2022. After moving from the East Coast, where multidisciplinary hospitals aren’t hard to find, it didn’t take long for her to realize the importance of the gynecologic oncology team at MECC. The team sees some patients – like Pat – who travel multiple hours to receive their care.
“We feel great pride in being able to deliver that level of service to all patients across the state and region,” Dr. Ducie said. “We want to make sure that everyone gets the standard of care that they should be getting, regardless of where they live.”
One way that Methodist breaks barriers for patients who travel to Omaha for their care is through its partnership with the American Cancer Society (ACS) Hope Lodge, which opened in 2018.
The Hope Lodge, located just a couple of blocks east of the Methodist Hospital campus, features 32 guest suites and nine full kitchens, providing lodging and a community for cancer patients and their caregivers free of charge.
There are more than 30 Hope Lodge locations across the country.
Pat and her husband stayed at the Hope Lodge the night before her first surgery in Omaha. Chuck also stayed there during each of Pat’s hospital stays.
Pat said that it gave her peace of mind knowing that her husband wasn’t very far away.
Thanks to an ACS grant for Methodist patients, the Spores also received gas cards for one of their return trips to Hastings.
”It was nice knowing that you don’t have that added expense during a time when you’re already under a lot of stress,” Pat said.
From their initial introduction in 2022, Dr. Nadkarni recognized that Pat was easy to talk to and seemed calm about her diagnosis.
“She knew it wasn’t ideal, but she trusted her team,” Dr. Nadkarni said. “And we tried our best to help her.”
Although their first trip to MECC last year seemed daunting, the Spores planned a fall camping trip to Two Rivers State Recreation Area near Waterloo to coincide with an October follow-up appointment with Dr. Nadkarni – someone who Pat feels a strong appreciation for.
“I will be forever grateful that I was referred to her,” Pat wrote in a compliment to the doctor. “I sincerely believe she saved my life.”