MCCOMB, Miss. – Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center (SMRMC) in partnership with Ochsner Health System has provided many patients access to high-quality care close to home including oncology patient Molly Lee of Tylertown, Miss. A former teacher of advanced high school math, Molly knows well the value of the partnership and having access to leading cancer treatment and an expert team of physicians and nurses within 30 minutes of her home. Currently cancer-free, Molly is grateful to spend the holidays with family and friends thanks to The Mississippi Cancer Institute (MCI) at SMRMC and Ochsner.
A self-described “person of faith,” Molly led an active lifestyle, regularly visiting the gym, working outdoors in her garden and staying active with her three grandchildren. Therefore, it surprised her when she broke her leg one morning while working out at the gym, and was further surprised days later during her yearly wellness exam at the gynecologist when her blood clotted before they could test it.
Her gynecologist referred her to Dr. Ronald “Dwayne” Delrie, an Ochsner hematologist-oncologist who specializes in blood diseases such as anemia, sickle-cell disease and blood cancers including leukemia and lymphoma. He practices at MCI as well as Ochsner in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
In 2012, SMRMC decided to reintroduce medical oncology services and take care of southwest Mississippians under one roof, forming MCI. Ochsner noticed in the rural area of McComb that a large number of people were not getting routine cancer screenings – colonoscopies, pap smears and mammograms— because of the distance they had to travel. Wishing to expand on Southwest’s ability to serve its community, Southwest Health System CEO Norman Price approached Ochsner Health System to explore possibilities. The medical center and Ochsner formalized their partnership in 2016, introducing a vibrant new era of cancer treatment.
After meeting with Molly, it didn’t take long for Dr. Delrie to put the pieces together. One week later, he told her his suspicions had been confirmed—she had multiple myeloma, or cancer of the bone marrow.
“At that moment, our lives changed drastically,” Molly said. “Cancer runs in my family, and I had always thought I would get breast cancer or lung cancer. On my dad’s side everyone died of cancer, so I was expecting it, but not at this age.”
Molly immediately set out on an aggressive treatment regimen. A PET scan showed tumors in her back and leg that needed to be removed, so she began chemotherapy at MCI, just 25 minutes from her home. She made weekly visits over the next five months; living in Tylertown, she valued having to travel only a short distance to receive care.
She received her radiation treatments to remove the tumors from radiation-oncologist Dr. Burnett Hanson at SMRMC. To Molly, the entire team was very informative and accommodating during a very difficult and uncertain time. Every step of the way — at both SMRMC and Ochsner in Louisiana, where she underwent a bone marrow transplant — she had confidence in her caregivers.
Receiving care at multiple facilities might introduce confusion in ordinary circumstances, but not in Molly’s case. “It was wonderful having the Cancer Institute and Ochsner working together because doctors at both ends had access to my records at all times,” she said. “It was great having doctors at different facilities both taking care of me, both seeing what the other was doing.”
Since SMRMC’s partnership with Ochsner in 2016, more patients have had access to cancer care close to home near family and friends. In the first six months of 2017, 2,870 patients received treatment at MCI, compared to 1,591 in the same period in 2016 and 1,591 in2015.
Six months after Molly’s bone marrow transplant, she recalled the period leading up to that fateful broken leg. “I was very winded and couldn’t walk around the yard without getting weak. There were times I wondered if I would ever be normal again,” she said. “But I’m swimming 15 laps a day now. I feel like I’m back to normal.”
Cancer, like most diseases, is treated more successfully when caught early. Dr. Delrie names two lifestyle factors above all others that can reduce the chance of cancer.
“Day to day, if you could pick two things — weight control and tobacco exposure,” he said. “A healthy diet — fresh fruits and vegetables, lower saturated fat and exercise— all generate more antioxidants.”
Molly credits both her faith and the quality care she received at Ochsner and MCI for coming through the experience in one piece. “I never felt any resentment or anger. I never shed a tear about it,” she said. “I had a sense of peace that God was going to take me through this. And it has come to fruition. I’m in remission now.”
Watch Molly’s full story here. For more information on the Mississippi Cancer Institute at Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center or to schedule a cancer screening, please call 601-600-8773 or visit https://www.smrmc.com/.
About Southwest Health System
Southwest Health System is an integrated healthcare delivery network serving residents of Southwest Mississippi. Our organization is comprised of Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, Cardiovascular Institute of Mississippi, Mississippi Cancer Institute, Ambulatory Surgery Center, St. Luke Home Health & Hospice, Digestive Diseases Center, Southwest Center for Rehabilitation, Southwest Regional Women’s Center Maternity Suites, Family Practice/Internal Medicine Clinics and Lawrence County Hospital.
As one of the most comprehensive healthcare resources in Southwest Mississippi, Southwest Regional is a modern facility with 165 licensed beds offering advanced equipment and a broad range of services to our patients. Our physicians and other healthcare professionals remain on the forefront of modern healing. SMRMC’s Emergency Services is now classified as a Level III Trauma Center.
About Ochsner Health System
Ochsner Health System is Louisiana’s largest non-profit, academic, healthcare system. Driven by a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate, coordinated clinical and hospital patient care is provided across the region by Ochsner's 30 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and more than 80 health centers and urgent care centers. Ochsner is the only Louisiana hospital recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Hospital” across four specialty categories caring for patients from all 50 states and more than 80 countries worldwide each year. Ochsner employs more than 18,000 employees and over 1,100 physicians in over 90 medical specialties and subspecialties, and conducts more than 600 clinical research studies. Ochsner Health System is proud to be a tobacco-free environment. For more information, please visit www.ochsner.org and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.