Patient Perseveres through Endometrial Cancer Journey with Strength, Faith, and Trust
Endometrial cancer is the most common form of uterine cancer, affecting more than 50,000 women each year in the U.S. alone, according to the American Cancer Society. When Celeste Holmes-Nelson, 61, of Washington Township, was diagnosed with stage IV in the summer of 2019, she was determined to beat it — not only with the help of her strong faith, but her entire care team.
Celeste first met with OB/GYN Dr. Kenneth Covone on her journey. In the interim of being tested and waiting on results, she started to experience an unusual symptom: severe swelling.
“I felt like I could hardly breathe, so I rushed over to the Emergency Department,” said Celeste. Once at Jefferson Washington Township Hospital, she says that nearly four liters of fluid were drained from her abdomen, some of which contained cancerous cells.
Shortly after, Dr. Covone arrived with her results: an endometrial uterine cancer diagnosis with ovarian involvement.
While this could have been one of the most traumatic moments of her lifetime, Celeste recalls feeling strong and blessed that she was surrounded by competent and comforting medical professionals.
“Dr. Covone, as well as everyone who cared for me in the hospital — physicians, nurses, and transportation staff — were all incredibly kind and compassionate. I took note of this the entire time, and it made my whole experience so much easier.”
A couple of days later, Celeste met with Dr. Robin Wilson-Smith, Medical Director of Gynecologic Oncology Services at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center - Washington Township, as well as Tracey Reynolds, RN, and Ashley Ferris, APN. “They are all incredibly skilled, personable, and uplifting professionals,” Celeste said. “Dr. Wilson Smith’s character, love, and unbiased expertise is second to none. She was always confident, and humbly so. My family and I are delighted with her.”
One of her first steps was taking a class at the Cancer Center, which taught her everything she needed to know about the diagnosis. She was pleasantly surprised by this opportunity, which helped her understand and cope with her condition much better. She also researched her condition online and began leading a strictly organic lifestyle to get healthy, lose weight, and reduce her risk of cancer growth.
In mid-July, Celeste had her first surgery, which was followed by a 12-week-long period of chemotherapy. Again, while this was an incredibly challenging time — as it is for most people — Celeste remembers most how caring the staff was.
She went back for her second surgery in November, followed by another short session of chemo; by this point, her cancer fortunately had all but disappeared.
Celeste started to recuperate but, unfortunately, she took another hit to her health in February. Some of the vertebrae in her cervical spine had collapsed, which resulted in yet another surgery, done by Neurosurgeon Dr. Eddy Garrido. "He is soft-spoken, kind, comforting, attentive, and has a wonderful bedside manner," added Celeste.
Back in the ED, Celeste received a call from Dr. Wilson-Smith checking up on her. “She caught wind that I kept leaving the hospital, and she called to tell me to get back in there — almost like a mother would,” she said, laughing.
Her experience with her neck surgery was another positive one, and Celeste has been on an uphill path ever since — her cancer numbers, low, and her thirst for life, high.
When asked what kind of advice she’d give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer, Celeste said to stay positive, keep moving, and trust your doctors: “Surround yourself with people who want to help you, not mourn for you; don’t focus on the issue, focus on the answer; and above all else, pray and listen to your doctors.”
Celeste knows that her resilience comes especially from her faith, and while others may not have that, she encourages them to continue doing what they enjoy. A trained opera singer, one of her favorite pastimes is writing music and singing.
She recently released a song called, “Come Away,” to express both her emotions throughout her cancer journey and her gratefulness for her care team. (To listen to the song, click here.)
“I have never had such impeccable treatment and service anywhere like I did at Jefferson,” Celeste exclaimed. “I have never felt so encouraged and loved by strangers. I can’t say enough about them. I’m a prayerful woman, and I firmly believe that God led me to this team for a reason.”