At Lake Regional Health System, we're devoted to helping people with cancer. In our Cancer Center, we offer state-of-the-art therapies that can find and treat cancer. And our team is made up of compassionate providers who will treat you—and the people you love—like family.
Meet Our Cancer Treatment Team
When you come to the Cancer Center for treatment, you'll work with a team of professionals, including:
- Radiation oncologists
- Nurses certified in oncology and palliative care
- Registered dietitians
Our team works together to provide the medical expertise you need close to home.
Cancer Treatment Options We Offer
We address a wide variety of cancers, including breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer and many more. Each type of cancer is a little different, and the therapies that work best on these cancers can vary. We'll explain your options carefully, and we'll create a treatment plan that's best for your cancer, your health and your goals.
Your treatment plan might involve:
Our surgeons can take tissue samples to diagnose or stage cancer. They can also perform surgeries to remove cancerous tumors from your body.
We have 10 private infusion bays in our Cancer Center—each equipped with a television and wireless internet. During your therapy, you can rest, relax or catch up on a favorite program. Our nurses will be close at hand during your therapy to monitor your progress and offer added support if you need it.
We offer high-tech radiation options that can target tumors while sparing healthy tissue. These machines work quickly too. Our treatments are done in less time than needed by conventional radiation therapy machines.
We offer a number of programs that can help you to manage the side effects of cancer treatments and the life changes cancer can bring. We encourage you to visit our Cancer Support page to find out more. Or, stop by the office of our cancer resource navigator the next time you're in our Cancer Center. She can explain how our programs work and how you can get involved.
Cancer Care Success Stories
Beating Breast Cancer: Michelle Miller
Survivor Michelle Miller relies on friends, family and a committed care team.
Michelle Miller knew when she felt the lump in her breast that there was no time to waste.
"I saw my primary care doctor within two days," she said. "Then came mammograms and biopsies, and two weeks after I found the lump, I was in surgery. It was stage III breast cancer, so my team at Lake Regional Cancer Center took a very aggressive approach."
Reason to Fight
Miller was 41 at the time of her breast cancer diagnosis. She worked at Petco in Osage Beach as a dog trainer and spent much of her free time volunteering with rescued dogs. She and her husband, Mike Martin, who live in Kaiser, also have four dogs of their own.
Miller understood her diagnosis was serious but not hopeless. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for stage III breast cancer is about 72 percent.
"Hearing the 'c' word was definitely scary," Miller says. "But, I tried to keep my spirits up because I know the attitude of the patient is important. I also had lots of support through family and friends, and my work was wonderful to me."
Originally from Columbia, MO., Miller first thought she would go there for treatment. When she realized how difficult traveling back and forth would be, she decided to give Lake Regional a look.
"It was very convenient to come here, and everybody here was very attentive and compassionate," she says. "If there was anything I needed, there was someone here I could turn to for help."
Along with going to Lake Regional Cancer Center for her radiation and chemo, Miller also went to Lake Regional General Surgeon John Patton, D.O., FACOS, for surgery to remove the tumor and 13 lymph nodes. Nine of the 13 had cancer.
"20 years ago, I wouldn't have made it," Miller says. "Lake Regional saved my life."
Miller also drew support from Lake Regional's HOPE Program. This program is funded by community donations and provides various forms of help to local cancer patients. Unable to work during her eight months of treatment, Miller was grateful to receive gas cards and other financial assistance.
"I also went to the Look Good…Feel Better," Miller says, referring to a class that helps women with makeup tips, skin and nail care, and coping with hair loss. "And I went to Hope for Women, a support group for women with cancer. It was a good confidence-builder, and it helped me to be around other women in my same situation."
After surgery, four months of chemo and six weeks of radiation, Miller moved on to tamoxifen, a pill she will take for at least 10 years. It has been two years since her final radiation treatment, and Miller is feeling great.
"When I was first diagnosed, one of my friends said she didn't have to worry about me because I'm too ornery to let cancer get me," says Miller, smiling. "Beating cancer is not an easy thing to do, and I certainly didn't do it alone."
Life After Cancer: Kristy Elsberry
New program offers cancer survivors a helping hand.
Since her diagnosis, Kristy Elsberry has been fighting to beat cancer and keep it from coming back. That's why the 53-year-old wife, mother and grandmother joined Lake Regional's Re-Live program.
"There's no pill for me to take after chemo and radiation to help prevent the cancer from coming back," says Elsberry, who had triple-negative breast cancer. Other breast cancers can be treated for years with tamoxifen or Herceptin pills. "The only treatment I have left is to take out my risk factors, and diet and exercise will help me do that."
What Is Re-Live?
Re-Live is a new rehabilitation program at Lake Regional customized to the needs of patients who are receiving or who have completed cancer treatment.
According to the American Cancer Society, physically active cancer survivors have a lower risk of cancer recurrence and higher odds of cancer survival than those who are inactive. Exercise can also improve fatigue, cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, happiness and other quality of life factors in cancer survivors.
"When we surveyed patients who had completed treatment at Lake Regional Cancer Center, they told us fatigue is their No. 1 challenge," says Lake Regional Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Director Jennifer Newman, R.N., CEN, cPT. "We developed the Re-Live program to help these survivors get their lives back."
Re-Live is an individual—not a group—program. Patients begin with an evaluation to determine their exercise regimen. Usually, the regimen includes a mix of using an exercise bike, arm bike (pedaled with the hands/arms), treadmill and weights.
"As their endurance improves, we increase the intensity and duration of their exercise, with the ultimate goal being 45 to 60 minutes of continuous exercise," Newman says.
Patients have medical oversight throughout the program, an important benefit for those who have completed treatment and who might go months before seeing a doctor.
"We are seeing those patients continuously and checking their vitals every time," Newman says. "That means we can see early signs of problems and help them connect with their doctors to get the care they need, whether that's a simple antibiotic or something major. This can help patients avoid hospitalizations."
More Than Physical Strength
At her first Re-Live appointment, Elsberry was surprised she couldn't complete her exercises.
"I thought, I've got to get back to good so I can garden this spring," she says. "Some people are writers, some are artists—everybody's got a God-given gift. Mine is in the garden."
Elsberry is a trained University of Missouri Extension Master Gardener. She creates beautiful landscaping at her home outside of Iberia, but last spring and summer, her treatments left her unable to use her gift. The sight of her neglected flower beds and vegetable garden saddened her, and she was determined to give them loving attention this spring.
She made progress her first couple of weeks at Re-Live, but then missed two weeks because of respiratory illness. She got in another week and then was sick again and missed two more weeks.
Such adversity is typical, Newman says.
"We expect patients who have undergone cancer treatment to have these setbacks, and we help them work through them," she says. "Also, evidence shows that being in a program like Re-Live can help patients come back from those illnesses sooner and stronger than they would otherwise."
Elsberry continued in the program and found it gave her more than physical strength. The continued care, she says, has also helped her manage cancer's mental and emotional tolls.
"I feel like I'm doing something for myself," Elsberry explains. "It might sound strange, but when my radiation ended, I felt like somebody had taken my umbrella on a rainy day. I thought, now what am I going to do? Well, I can do this. Modern medicine has done all it can for me, and now it's up to me to follow my doctor's advice."
Get Financial Help
Lake Regional Cancer Center patients with financial need may receive their first three months of Re-Live for free. To learn more about the financial assistance application, call Cancer Resource Navigator Nichole Stephens, LBSW, at 573.302.2752. Funding is provided by Lake Regional's Hope Program.
In the Fight: Robert Trokey
"Nobody can believe I've gone through this."
Robert Trokey was having a good time visiting with family at his brother's place on June 30, 2012, when suddenly, he felt faint and passed out. He quickly revived, but his niece, a registered nurse, still called an ambulance.
"I told her, 'No, I'm OK now,' but she insisted," says Trokey, who was 80 but in great shape. "I wasn't pleased at the time, but as it turned out, it was a good thing she did."
Once at Lake Regional, Trokey had a lung X-ray, which indicated a problem with his left lung. A CAT scan revealed a mass.
Because Trokey is a veteran—he served in the Military Police Corps between 1952 and 1956—he went to the Harry S. Truman Veterans' Hospital in Columbia for care. Further testing revealed he had small-cell lung cancer. He received chemo at Truman, but he came to Lake Regional Cancer Center for radiation therapy, which he needed every day, Monday through Friday, for six weeks.
"I couldn't have gone 120 miles to Columbia every day," explains Trokey, who amazed his care team by continuing to work as a night security guard at The Club at Old Kinderhook throughout his treatment. "Lake Regional was close, and that made things much easier."
Trokey's treatment lasted from Aug. 22, 2012, to Oct. 2, 2012. The treatments were successful, and for more than two years, Trokey was cancer-free. But in early 2015, a tumor appeared on his left lung. Testing revealed it was not a recurrence of his first cancer, but a different, non-small-cell lung cancer.
"For my second round of treatment, Lake Regional was able to work it out with the VA so that I could receive both my chemo and my radiation here," Trokey says.
In May 2015, Trokey became one of the first Lake Regional Cancer Center patients to receive radiation therapy with the center's new, state-of-the-art linear accelerator. The new equipment enables therapists to focus higher radiation doses on targeted cells, while minimizing doses to surrounding healthy tissue. Although this is the same kind of treatment—intensity modulated radiation therapy—delivered by the Cancer Center's previous linear accelerator, the new accelerator offers enhanced imaging and greater speed, both of which improve accuracy and further limit radiation to healthy tissue.
Receiving radiation, Trokey says, was easy and painless. He lay still on a table for about 12 minutes while the radiation was delivered. Later, he did develop some temporary blistering at the radiation site, a common side effect.
Throughout his care, Trokey found the Lake Regional care team to be exceptionally helpful and kind.
"I am so tickled I got to have them," he says. "They are very serious about their job, but there's also levity from time to time, and I like that. It's a heck of a lot more pleasant than working with stern people."
Less than a month after Trokey's final treatment, his Lake Regional radiation oncologist, Mark Bryer, M.D., said Trokey will receive regular checkups every few months to monitor for recurrence but at present, is considered without any evidence of disease.
Now 83, the cancer survivor is enjoying life. He takes care of his 25 acres near Climax Springs and frequently entertains friends and family.
"I feel good," Trokey says. "Nobody can believe I've gone through this. I'm very pleased with Lake Regional. They have treated me very well and are continuing to look out for me."
Beating Breast Cancer: Pattie Alkire
"When I would get down, [my care team] would lift me up."
Pattie Alkire tells her breast cancer survivor story with a smile. Yet, there were times during her battle when she struggled not to give in to sadness and fear.
"If you're going through cancer, there are going to be good days and bad days; you'll take one step forward and two steps back," she says. "There are times when you give up, but then you see other people fighting cancer and think, 'If they can do it, I can, too.'"
Pattie found her breast cancer while performing a routine self-exam in February 2014. She and her husband, Raymond, were enjoying life as empty nesters and spent much of their time hunting, fishing and camping on the Gasconade. They also liked to leave their phones at home, climb in their SUV and drive gravel roads, looking at wildlife and talking.
That life was suddenly threatened when Pattie felt a lump in her left breast. It was about the size of a pea, but just a week later when she had a mammogram at the Lake Regional Imaging Center, the lump had already grown to 3 centimeters in diameter. A biopsy done three days later at the Imaging Center revealed she had stage III breast cancer.
Pattie started chemo at Lake Regional Cancer Center within a week of diagnosis and later had a double mastectomy and radiation. She had the usual side effects from chemo, including nausea and loss of appetite. She lost 30 pounds and was exhausted. Still, she managed to continue working as an accountant at Central Ozarks Medical Center in Richland. Co-workers, friends and family encouraged her in her fight, and through it all, Raymond was by her side.
"I couldn't have asked for anyone better to go through cancer with," Pattie says. "He has been a core support for me."
Additional support came from her care team at Lake Regional Cancer Center.
"They were wonderful—the nurses, doctors, volunteers, everybody," Pattie says. "They treated me exceptionally well. They gave me warm blankets and pampered me and made me feel appreciated. Whenever I had questions, they didn't mind me calling and would help me get what I needed to feel better."
She adds that the compassion she received at Lake Regional Cancer Center made a "big difference" in her recovery. "Because if you know that someone cares if you get well or not, it makes you fight a lot harder," she says. "When I would get down, they would lift me up."
Pattie has been cancer-free since her double mastectomy in August 2014. She took her last Herceptin chemo treatment July 2, 2015, and has finished one of five years of taking a tamoxifen pill. She is feeling good and says surviving cancer has given her a whole new outlook on life.
"There are a lot of things that change after cancer," she says. "Things that used to upset you don't matter anymore, and little things you used to take for granted are important now. The most important thing to me right now is I can wake up, get out of bed, go to work and be me."
Strong Survivor: Roseann Dzurko
Roseann Dzurko did not want to lose her hair. In fact, that was the first thing she said when she learned her breast cancer required chemo.
But when clumps of her brown, chin-length hair began falling out, Dzurko also did not want people feeling sorry for her. So one night when her husband was out of the house, she shaved it all off.
“When I was done, I thought, ‘You know, this doesn’t look too bad,’ ” she said.
Refusing to feel pitiful and instead doing what she could to feel empowered sums up Dzurko’s response to stage 3 breast cancer.
“It was rough,” said the 63-year-old wife, mother and grandmother, “but I wasn’t going to let it get me down. You have to have the right attitude because if you don’t, it will consume you.”
Motivated to Fight
Dzurko’s breast cancer story began with an annual mammogram — something she always did every year in December. In 2016, the screening detected a mass in her left breast. Surgery and testing revealed she had hormone-receptor positive breast cancer. It had not spread throughout her breast, but it was in nearby lymph nodes. That meant Dzurko needed both radiation and chemotherapy.
It also meant she needed to find a cancer center closer to home. Dzurko and her husband, Al, had moved to Sunrise Beach in 2007 but had always gone back to Illinois for their health care. She received her diagnosis in Illinois, as well as surgeries to remove the cancer from her breast and 17 lymph nodes — five of which had cancer. But she did not want to stay in Illinois for her radiation and chemo.
“When we visit Illinois, we stay with our daughter,” Dzurko explained, “and I didn’t want my grandsons seeing me like that.”
Those grandsons — Matthew, 9, and Colton, 7 — were Dzurko’s greatest motivation for beating cancer.
“Everybody’s got their bucket list,” she said. “For me, it’s being here to see those two grandsons of mine grow up and become fine young men. That’s all. Just a few years to see them grow.”
Making the Battle Plan
Dzurko checked out Lake Regional Cancer Center at the recommendation of a friend, who received treatment at Lake Regional for lung cancer. The support Dzurko found was “incredible,” she said.
“The staff is so great, just wonderful,” she said.
Dzurko also was pleased with the treatment plan Lake Regional Oncologist Michael Wang, M.D., created for her. Instead of scheduling eight sessions of chemo across the standard 24 weeks — as her doctor in Illinois had suggested — Dr. Wang recommended scheduling eight sessions across 16 weeks, a “dose-dense” treatment plan.
“If the patient can tolerate it, dose-dense chemotherapy is better — it’s associated with better survival,” Dr. Wang explained.
Dzurko also preferred the more intense pace because it meant she completed her treatment two months earlier.
A Victory Shared
During treatment, Dzurko found keeping active helped her maintain a positive attitude.
“I tried to keep busy, but sometimes, it just kicked my butt,” she said. The worst part, she added, was when her bones ached. “I tended to do my crying alone in bed. And this,” she said pulling a rosary out her purse, “helped me a lot. I prayed a lot. People would call and encourage me. And seeing my kids — that always helped.”
Dzurko finished her chemo on June 22, 2017, and her radiation on August 23, 2017. Now cancer-free, she is on a five-year maintenance regimen of the breast cancer pill letrozole. She also receives regular checkups.
A grateful survivor, she hopes her story motivates other women to prioritize their annual mammograms.
“When I hear women say, ‘I haven’t had a mammogram in five years,’ I get a sinking feeling,” she said. “If I hadn’t had my mammogram, I don’t know where I’d be right now. My doctor said I never would’ve felt the lump because it was too deep. But the mammogram found it.”
Find Out More About Our Cancer Center
In 2015, our Cancer Center was the only program in the state to earn an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Commission on Cancer. It's an achievement we're proud of—and it demonstrates the excellence our team offers the community each day.