BRAvo dancer profile: Terry and Dr. Wendt

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terry and doctor wendt

Terry knows how lucky she is.

And, as regular attendee and active member of the Sisters of Support cancer support group, the BRAvo “Dancing With Our Doc” participant knows who she is dancing for.

In late 2014, Terry was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer affecting the blood and bone marrow.

“I had been fatigued for months,” she said. “I thought that it was just me getting older and trying to keep up with my grandkids.”

The realization that something might be wrong came when she reached a point of such fatigue that she slept for nearly three days, and when she woke up was experiencing crushing chest heaviness.

She and her husband quickly rushed to the McLaren Macomb emergency department thinking she was having a heart attack. Doctors ruled out a heart attack, but performed additional tests to determine the issue affecting her.

“My daughter works in the ER,” Terry said. “And, after speaking with the doctor, she came into our room crying.”

Blood tests found that Terry’s white blood cell count was 90,000. The normal range is 4,000 to 11,000. Signs pointed to a form of blood cancer, but to confirm this, additional tests would need to be run.

Terry, now admitted to the hospital, met hematologist and oncologist Dr. Salman Fateh with the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Macomb.

With Terry’s white blood cell count now at 100,000, Dr. Fateh performed a bone marrow extraction, a test to aid in the oncologist’s diagnosis and to understand of the scope of Terry’s condition.

Because of the holiday season, Terry was told she would get the results in two weeks. But, says Terry, Dr. Fateh knew how agonizing the wait would be. He called her as soon as the results were available over the holidays.

“He called and said ‘Good news,’ ” Terry recalled. “ ‘You can live a long time with this disease with medication.’ I was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia.”

She felt a degree of relief, receiving a complete diagnosis and knowing now what was afflicting her, but greater relief learning it could be controlled with one pill a day.

“I’m so blessed,” she said, knowing she would be able to avoid chemotherapy or other intensive treatments. While attending her appointments, Terry saw what those treatments could do to patients. Deeply affected by what she saw, she, now a life-long cancer patient, felt a connection with them and was compelled to offer her support.

“I grieve for their loss of health,” Terry said, quickly beginning to attend the Sisters of Supports group to offer strength to those who might need it.

Another way she will offer her support is by dancing at BRAvo: “I’m dancing for so many people who can’t. I feel so blessed, I have to give back. I need to show them there is hope at the end of that tunnel.”

Terry is partnered with Dr. Beth Wendt, physician and McLaren Macomb chief of staff, who luckily has not been personally affected by the ravages cancer can cause, but, as an internist, has treated patients who have been living with cancer for many years.

Like Terry, she sees their dance as an opportunity.

“It’s a chance to celebrate those who have been struggling – to help support them,” she said. “And it’s a chance to battle the perception that once you get cancer it’s a life-ender. That’s just not true anymore. It’s life-altering, not a life-ender.”

Dr. Wendt is no stranger to dance. She was a member of her high school dance club, with nerves nor stage fright being a factor on BRAvo night.

“I’m not afraid to go on stage and embarrass myself a little bit,” she said with a laugh, “but I’m looking to have fun, and it will mean something.”