From OHC, Specialists in Cancer and Blood Disorders
February 13, 2020
Charlene Crank always took good care of her health. Then, about five years ago, she began having problems related to her thyroid and menopause. While working with her primary care doctor to manage these health issues, she paid less attention to other aspects of her health, including her annual gynecology exams.
One afternoon, a former co-worker and friend called Charlene. She had stage four cervical cancer and wasn’t doing well, and she wanted to connect with Charlene. “I made dinner and took it over to her and we had a nice visit. I noticed as we talked, she was coloring, with crayons and a coloring book. It was unusual for her, but it was something that helped her relax,” Charlene said.
Charlene got the call a short time later that her friend passed away. Filled with grief, she was standing at her dear friend’s casket, when suddenly Charlene was overwhelmed with a powerful message: Oh my God, I have cancer. The feeling was so intense that she immediately called gynecologist Julia H. Lee, MD and scheduled an appointment.
“I knew I had cancer. They were going to think I was crazy, but I didn’t care. I knew it. Either God, my friend or something told me I had cancer, so I called Dr. Lee right away,” Charlene explained.
After her exam, Dr. Lee scheduled a biopsy. However, the look on the doctor’s face told Charlene what she already knew: cancer.
“I was at home with my granddaughter when I got a call from Dr. Wrenn at OHC. It was weird because when she called, my granddaughter and I were coloring, just like my friend used to do. That was the first time in my entire life I have ever colored, if you can believe that. It was as if my friend was there with me when I got the confirmation,” Charlene said.
Dr. Lee referred Charlene to Dené C. Wrenn, MD, MS, a gynecologic oncologist with OHC.
“I love Dr. Wrenn and after I spoke with her, I didn’t worry. She got me into her office right away and she had a plan, so I knew I didn’t need to worry. I felt that way every time I went to the OHC office. Everyone is so positive, so wonderful and supportive,” said Charlene.
“Like many women, Charlene was blindsided by the events surrounding her diagnosis. Once aware of her cervical cancer, she met the demands of treatment with patience, strength and a little humor. Though it was a humbling experience, she remained positive from diagnosis to surveillance,” said Dr. Wrenn, who sees patients at OHC’s offices in Fairfield and Green Township.
Charlene’s stage of cancer did not allow for surgical removal. Dr. Wrenn explained to Charlene that she was going to bring together a team of experts at OHC and, with Charlene’s input, create a personalized plan of care.
“My team included Dr. Wrenn and Dr. Peter Fried, who was in charge of my radiation. He is such a character. He always made me laugh. And Dr. Paula Weisenberger took care of my chemotherapy. Having grown up in Hamilton, I knew who Dr. Paula was before I met her. You know she’s famous for cancer care. And she had my mom cracking up during my visits,” Charlene shared.
Charlene said she created a special bond with Sarah Wilson, an advanced practice provider at OHC. “We shared a lot of stories about our parents because we’re both looking after our parents now. She is wonderful.”
“Everyone at OHC is wonderful. Carol, the treatment nurse, would take my hands in hers and look me in the eyes in a way that let me know I’d be okay. The girls in radiation would tell me to go ahead and cry or laugh or do whatever I wanted to. At every visit, I was always greeted with a ‘Hi Charlene!’ from Amber, a gynecologic medical assistant at OHC.”
“OHC became my solace. It was the place I could go and just let it all out. It was the one place where people understood what I was going through and that allowed me to just let go,” she explained. “I couldn’t tell my mom because I didn’t want to worry her and my husband isn’t good with emotional things. Plus, I’m the oldest of my siblings, so it was hard for me to talk about it or ask for help. I know all of them would have dropped everything to help me, but I just couldn’t. That’s why OHC was so important to me.”
Charlene also feels she has been blessed in many other ways during her cancer ordeal. Early in her journey, she felt like she couldn’t go home with the weight of a cancer diagnosis on her shoulders. She stopped at her church and they just happened to be having a women’s group meeting and the speaker’s topic was cancer. Later, some of the women sent her cards and cross-stitched items. They added Charlene to the church’s prayer list and she received cards from people in other countries, like Haiti, who didn’t know her but were praying for her.
She was so grateful but was feeling as though she should be doing something with her cancer, like telling others about her cancer experience, even if it only helped one person. “And the next day, I received a call from OHC asking if I would let them share my story. That was yet another unusual coincidence in my experience. It made my day because I believe it was God’s way of letting me know he still had plans for me,” she said.
When Charlene shares her story, there are three things she wants people to take away.
“Number one, DO NOT put off your pap test and check on your friends to make sure they are getting theirs. It could save your lives. Two, listen to your body. If something doesn’t seem right, call your doctor. Three, if you are a survivor, tell others. Sharing your story could help ease someone’s anxiety just knowing you went through the same thing.”
“I also hope women and their families will turn to others for help,” Charlene added. “I was blessed to have OHC. They have all become my extended family. I enjoy coming here and seeing everyone. I actually look forward to it.”Comments (0)