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A Chance Encounter in an Emergency Room Has Kept This Cancer Survivor Going

Publication: The Dallas Morning News

By: David Buise

Singing has been a vital part of Renate Duty’s life for over three decades. She even met her husband of 32 years, Jim, when they were singing in different gospel quartets. Eventually, Jim and Renate started singing together in the same quartet, His Call.

It was after a performance in July 2015 that Renate unexpectedly lost consciousness. She was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Harris Methodist Hospital and, though she has no memory of it, underwent an X-ray of her chest as well as a CT scan of her brain.

The diagnosis was grim: Stage 4 breast cancer with brain and lung metastases.

Renate believes that her road to recovery began even before she even knew her diagnosis. The ER nurse attending her asked if she could pray with her. As the nurse prayed, Renate somehow knew that whatever lay ahead, she could get through it.

Given the seriousness of her situation, Renate was transferred to Texas Oncology-Presbyterian Cancer Center Dallas, where she came under the care of medical oncologist Dr. Minal Barve and radiation oncologist Dr. Donald Schwarz.

Board Certified Radiation Oncologist, Texas Oncology—Presbyterian Cancer Center Dallas Radiation Oncology

Together, they concluded that a seizure had caused Renate to lose consciousness. The first step in her treatment was to undergo stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), a procedure that uses beams of highly focused gamma rays to treat brain tumors. Because Renate’s tumor was so deeply embedded in her brain, it could not be reached surgically.

The doctors at Texas Oncology performed the procedure the Thursday after Renate’s weekend collapse, and, for her, that was something of a blessing.

“I was so grateful that things proceeded so quickly,” she says. “I didn’t really have time to worry about what was going to happen next.”

Dr. Barve adds, “The fact that we could offer Renate SRS and targeted systemic therapy and avoid whole brain radiation has been instrumental in maintaining her quality of life, allowing her to continue to live normally.”

Following the SRS procedure, Renate has faced two years of intense systemic intravenous therapy. Since the summer of 2015, she has received treatments every three weeks. In that time, Renate’s tumors have continued to shrink significantly.

While she will likely have to undergo treatment for the rest of her life, Renate’s outlook is incredibly bright.

“My treatments are frequent,” Renate says, “but I don’t dread them at all. At Texas Oncology, you’re treated like family.”

As fate would have it, she’s even had the chance to reconnect with her high school choir teacher, who is also receiving treatment at Texas Oncology.

Between her therapy sessions, Renate leads a full life, running a Mother’s Day Out program at her church and participating in weekend performances with His Call. She was even recently named Female Group Vocalist of the Year by the Southern Gospel Music Association of Texas.

Renate readily admits that not everything is easy. Even though breast cancer doesn’t run in her family, her mother was also diagnosed with the disease early this year. Thankfully, following her initial treatment, she’s now doing well.

Beyond her concern for her mother, Renate also experiences moments of sadness, amplified by the fatigue brought on by her treatment. She concedes that it would be easy to give up and withdraw from the world, but she has refused to do so.

“You have to choose to carry on and stay positive,” Renate says.

She continues to draw strength from her faith, her family — including her husband, two sons and daughter-in-law — her friends and her music.

And she’ll always carry the memory of the nurse who prayed by her bedside in that emergency room.

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