BRAvo dancer profile: Dr. Sarah Vyskocil and Dr. Stephen Olson

2019, Archive, Month, October, Year
doctor vyskocil and doctor olson

It was a whirlwind for Dr. Sarah Vyskocil.

In just 12 days, the McLaren Macomb OB/GYN’s life forever changed.

On Nov. 5, 2017, she felt a lump in her breast during a self-exam. Six months prior, she had received a clean bill of health after undergoing her regular mammogram.

“As an OB/GYN,” she said, “I knew.”

Five days after discovering the lump, it was biopsied, confirming it was a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer, already advanced to stage 3.

Another five days later, on a Wednesday, a port for chemotherapy was surgically inserted before her first treatment, which was two days later on Nov. 17.

Twelve days from discovery to her first therapy, Dr. Vyskocil’s treatment was moving at a rapid pace.

“It was moving very fast,” she said. “I didn’t even have time to think about it. Although coming in for my second chemo bloodwork, I did freeze and almost run back to the car and drive away.”

Due to the advanced nature of her condition, she would have to go through an aggressive treatment. She would have to commit all of her time.

This would require an extended leave of absence from her practice. At first, she thought she would be able to return in six months. But with additional treatments and unexpected complications, the leave kept extending.

“I was 13 years in practice,” she said. “That was my identity, everything went into my work — it was devastating. That’s when it really hit me — it was for real, not just a bump in the road. I was fighting for the rest of my life.”

After the six main chemo treatments, she would undergo a double mastectomy, hysterectomy, 24 cycles of radiation, and 18 additional immuno-chemotherapy cycles, before her breast reconstruction surgery in June 2019.

But she also ran into complications, experiencing serious radiation burns with a non-healing wound, taking three months of daily hyperbaric oxygen treatments to close. She also developed a frozen shoulder with severe pain that required surgeries and physical therapy to regain function.

Cancer treatment is overwhelming for even the most resolute constitution. Having to endure unexpected complications and their treatments could shatter anyone.

But Dr. Vyskocil triumphed. She made it through treatment and side effects to regain her health. And while she still has some recovering to do, she remains determined to return to her practice.

“When is Dr. Vyskocil coming back?” said Dr. Stephen Olson. “It’s a question patients often ask.”

OB/GYN Dr. Olson has shared a practice with Dr. Vyskocil for several years. The pair have a strong, successful professional partnership, and Dr. Olson has remained a good friend throughout Dr. Vyskocil’s treatment.

And when Dr. Vyskocil was asked to dance as part of BRAvo’s “Dancing With Our Docs,” Dr. Olson was an obvious choice as her partner.

“It’s a great event for a great cause,” Dr. Olson said, “and one that hits close to home.”

Dr. Olson’s mother was a breast cancer survivor before she unfortunately was taken by uterine, thyroid and skin cancer. He also watched his brother-in-law undergo successful treatment for testicular cancer. He, thankfully, made a full recovery and is alive and well.

“Everyone knows someone,” he said.

When asked to dance, Dr. Vyskocil was hesitant at first.

“With all the complications, I was at such a low point,” she said. “But looking forward to dancing gave me hope, and ended up being one of the best parts of recovery.

“It’s something I’m able to work toward.”