April 5, 2022
For two years, Liz Hiles suffered with bladder pain and spasms and nocturnal accidents. Without medical insurance, she was not established with a primary care doctor and made multiple trips to the emergency room seeking answers and relief. After repeatedly being discharged with a urinary tract infection diagnosis and no improvement, frustration mounted. Confident she did not have a bladder infection and determined to become her own advocate, Liz vocalized her distress to an emergency room physician assistant who referred her to a urologist. This referral eventually led her to OHC, a path towards healing, and employment in the field of patient advocacy.
In 2016, urologist Rebecca Roedersheimer, MD, of The Urology Group, diagnosed Liz with bladder cancer. Her first step in the treatment process would be enduring a hysterectomy, a radical cystectomy (bladder removal), and a urostomy with stoma placement to create an opening in her abdomen and redirect urine out of her body and into a pouch worn on the outside of the body.
Following the surgical procedure, Liz met David M. Waterhouse, MD, MPH, an OHC medical oncologist and hematologist. “I knew I was in the right place during my first visit with Dr. Waterhouse,” said Liz.
In addition to treating Liz’s cancer, Dr. Waterhouse assisted in setting her up with regular medical check-ups with a primary care doctor and gynecologist. “Because of my significant anatomy changes, pelvic exams were too painful to endure,” said Liz. “My gynecologist recommended that I see Dr. Wrenn.” Dené C. Wrenn, MD, MS, an OHC gynecologic oncologist, and Sarah Coleman, MSN, APRN, an OHC advanced provider, continued Liz’s gynecologic care. Dr. Wrenn performs pelvic exams while Liz is under anesthesia to ensure patient comfort. “My visits with Dr. Wrenn and Sarah aren’t always so serious,” said Liz. “They understand my sarcasm and we laugh during my appointments.”
After meeting Liz and learning her story, one can’t help but wonder how she takes her situation in stride. She credits her professional experience as an administrative assistant in the gastroenterology department at Cincinnati Children’s with helping her cope as she was exposed to patients who had stomas because of bowel issues. “I was more upset about having chemotherapy than needing a urostomy,” said Liz. “Handling the urostomy was more challenging for me physically than emotionally. I accepted it right away.”
Although she completed chemotherapy in 2017, Liz continues to suffer with treatment side effects of pain, fatigue, and neuropathy in her feet and hands. “Walking can be hard sometimes, so I use a cane,” said Liz. “I also experience ‘chemobrain’ and can forget things at times.”
Despite this, Liz has turned her life-altering experience into something positive for patients. “When I was first diagnosed, I was lost and didn’t have a voice to explain what I was going through,” said Liz. All of that has changed with both personal and professional pursuits. Liz, a Cincinnati resident, is President of the Greater Cincinnati Ostomy Association and a contributing writer for several organizations including BladderCancer.net. After her significant involvement with GRYT Health, a digital oncology company that offers virtual support for patients, Liz accepted a position as the organization’s Engagement Specialist. Every day, she gives people with cancer a voice. “I can help others by sharing my experience and offering direction,” noted Liz.
In November, Liz and Dr. Waterhouse celebrated five years of progression free survival during her appointment at OHC. “It is a pleasure and honor to work with Liz,” said Dr. Waterhouse, who also serves as Co-Director of OHC’s Research Department. “She has even helped me to be a better clinical researcher. I realized the advantage of having a patient advocate at the table.”
As Liz reflects on what OHC means to her, one word comes to mind—life. “I wouldn’t be here without OHC.”
For more information on GRYT Health and their extensive resources, including monthly member meetups, educational events, chatrooms, and the annual Global Virtual Cancer Conference (GVCC), visit grythealth.com.
Top picture: OHC patient Liz Hiles gives a voice to cancer patients through her work as an Engagement Specialist with GRYT Health, a digital oncology company offering virtual support to patients.Comments (0)