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Comprehensive cancer care close to home

A message from the president of Greenwich Hospital

No one is ever prepared to hear the words: You have breast cancer. But the news can be particularly alarming when it coincides with a global pandemic.

That’s exactly what happened to Elyse Merolla of Greenwich, a mother of three who was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2020 just as COVID-19 hit Connecticut. Today, Merolla is cancer-free after successfully undergoing radiation therapy, chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery – all close to home at the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center in Greenwich.

Two things helped Merolla stay grounded during her medical journey: the unwavering support of her family and the knowledge that she had access to the finest oncology experts and treatments close by.

Within hours of finding a lump in her breast, Merolla was at the Breast Center undergoing a blood test, mammogram and ultrasound. A biopsy the next day confirmed that she had HER2-positive breast cancer, an aggressive form of cancer that grows and spreads quickly. Soon after, Merolla was meeting with surgeons, a radiation therapist and a medical oncologist to develop a treatment plan.

By drawing upon the resources of Smilow Cancer Hospital, Greenwich Hospital can offer patients innovative procedures and treatments. For example, Merolla took advantage of a scalp cooling treatment that helps to minimize hair loss during chemotherapy. Breast surgical oncologist Alyssa Gillego, MD, performed a nipple-sparing procedure to ensure the implants looked natural. Andreas Lamelas, MD, a microvascular surgeon, performed a specialized procedure to lower Merolla’s risk of developing lymphedema, a condition that sometimes occurs after removing the lymph nodes. Her treatment plan included infusions that directly target specific cancer cells.

All of these developments are helping to increase the number of survivors, bringing us closer to a world free of cancer.

Diane P. Kelly, President