The Best Things Come in Pairs

Laurie Evans,
– MD, PC, FACS & Breast Surgeon –

Greetings, it’s the time of year again when we all make new resolutions and promises to ourselves and to others to do all sorts of things! The beginning of the year is always a great time to start new ventures and renew past resolutions. I can’t think of a better time than now to share a story with a new character in the Tri-Cities and introduce a new team. I have been in solo practice in the Tri-Cities for over 20 years! Yikes, where has the time gone? I was asked the other day if I had a “story” to tell. We all have stories to tell and could all probably write a book if given the opportunity and talent. Suffice it to say, there are many stories, as we all have different paths that have led us to where we are now. I have seen alliances form and then dissolve. People come and people go. This particular story is about passion and resolve to do the best we can under the circumstances and provide the most comprehensive and compassionate care possible in our community.

It started many years ago when I became interested in
diagnosing and treating women with breast cancer. The road
has taken many turns and there have been bumps along the way. Several years ago I attended a conference of plastic surgeons and was one of a few surgeons in the audience that was not a plastic surgeon. The conference was about the partnership between surgeons treating women with breast cancer and plastic surgeons helping women recover their body image after cancer surgery. This is a unique relationship and vital to the quality of cancer care and recovery. Surviving cancer is not easy. Being told you have cancer is not easy. Telling people they have cancer is not easy. But having a team of physicians that have a cohesive network and process in place with years of experience and the ability to work together towards the common goal of providing the best the field has to offer is reassuring. So, I stood up at this meeting and said “I need a plastic surgeon” in the Tri Cities and was approached after the meeting by one of the presenters, Dr. Karen Vaniver. This began a relationship that spanned several years during which we shared many patients and developed mutual respect. At last, I dogged her long and hard enough that she has finally moved here and started practice here in the Tri-Cities.

Karen Vaniver,
– MD,FACS, Lourdes Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery –

In 2006, as the result of a midlife crisis, I moved my life and my practice to Puget Sound. Prior to leaving the Midwest in November, 2005, I had a normal mammogram and a normal exam. In March, 2006, I was diagnosed with triple negative, BRCA-1 positive breast cancer. This disease had taken my grandmother, attacked my mother in both breasts, caused my sister to lose the ability to have or nurse her own children, and was now pulling me up out of my new life into an abyss of fear. After biopsies, port placement and removal for sepsis, chemotherapy, hand- foot syndrome, bilateral mastectomies, bilateral immediate reconstructive flaps, abdominal wall dehiscence, delayed flap hemorrhage, hysterectomy, and a revision surgery to my breasts and abdomen, I found myself bald, fat, unemployed, and alone. My best friend and my father both died that year. My beloved dog, Sam, was killed in front of me. Even writing this now, so many years later, I am shocked that one person could experience so much loss.

The ride from hell is a very slow elevator. After a year and a half off work, I slowly returned to work, doing part time cosmetic surgery and then segued into full time private practice at a major medical center in Seattle. For six years, I threw my heart and soul into work, learning more and more about evolving standards in breast reconstruction and cosmetic surgery. I did clinical research, presented at meetings, and received public recognition for my work. Midway through that period of time, I performed reconstruction on a redheaded 70 year old cheerleader from Hermiston, Oregon. Fortunately for me, she was very happy with her result, and reported back to her breast surgeon, Dr. Laurie Evans. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Evans and I connected at a meeting and began to collaborate on cases. The 7-8 hour round-trip commute was hard on patients, and so, the very persistent Dr. Evans reeled me in over the course of two years. I am embarrassed that it took so long, because what I really wanted was to work where I was wanted and needed, to know my patients as people, to work with collaborative individuals, to be involved in strategic planning and program development, and to have a healthy quality of life. It was all here waiting for me.

“I respect Laurie and she has become a cherished friend. Diamond earrings, friends, breasts, and the best surgeons come in pairs.”

You might wonder why it is so important that the breast surgeon and the plastic surgeon have to work closely together. We collaborate on the best treatment for your cancer and your body type. We decide whether you would best be served by unilateral or bilateral mastectomy. We determine if you are a better candidate for early or delayed reconstruction. We look at your possible need for radiation and evaluate what type of reconstruction is best for you. We plan the incisions together, taking into account the need to remove lymph nodes. We support each other, and you, during your post-operative care and recovery. Most importantly, we are active listeners, and we take your values into account. Since our offices are in the same clinic, it is very easy for us to see patients and collaborate together.We attend breast cancer conference together, in order to collaborate on the best possible treatment available for you.

I respect Laurie and she has become a cherished friend. Diamond earrings, friends, breasts, and the best surgeons come in pairs.

Laurie Evans,
– MD, PC, FACS & Breast Surgeon –

This alliance has been a long time in coming and I am still in solo practice. I enjoy working with the many fine practitioners in this community and I am thrilled to have Dr. Vaniver as part of our team. We are developing a Breast Center of Excellence under the umbrella of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and we are proud to be supported by all three hospitals in the area. There are many challenges ahead, but ask anyone and they will tell you I’m a bit headstrong and we will persevere until we become nationally recognized and accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.