News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, May 20, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Augusta is already known around the world for golf, but our reputation is growing in the world of medicine -- specifically for cancer treatment.
The governor's budget includes more than $64 million for GRU, and $45 million of it for a new cancer center to be built across 15th Street from the hospital. And there's a new Department of Radiation Oncology on campus.
It's all critical for a lot of families living in the region, especially for people like Cindy Tomaszewski.
Tomaszewski got the news nobody wants to hear.
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of last year," she said.
It was devastating for the married mother of three.
"It was stage four," she said. "After I had my mastectomy, they did a pet scan and found it was also in my liver and in my sacrum."
Luckily for Tomaszewski and so many others like her, help is right here at home on the campus of Georgia Regents University. It's a place where the logos that say MCG Health Cancer Center can't seem to keep up with the buildings. A place where the international influence is apparent.
Dr. Peter Buckley is dean of the Medical College Of Georgia. The native of Ireland says investing in cancer research and treatment is critical.
"You've gotta have new space so people have the right lab space, the right working space, the right consultation space," he said.
You also need the right team of doctors and researchers.
"And so we're very fortunate. We're amassing a stellar team of national, and in many, instances international leaders," Buckley said.
Just across campus, Dr. Olivier Rixe is looking at a brain scan. There's an image of a brain on his computer screen. The lighter shade seems to pop off the screen the screen. That bright spot is cancer, and the way he'll treat it has changed dramatically.
"Total different response," Rixe explained. "We can now boost the immune system and have fantastic response."
His English is nearly perfect, but his French accent is apparent. Rixe is a native of Paris. For him, treating cancer is the ultimate challenge.
"This is a fantastic time. We've come a long way from just chemotherapy drugs," he said.
Rixe is talking about something we never dreamed of when he started his career 20 years ago -- cancer vaccines, which are shots to keep you from getting cancer.
"We made some significant progress on breast cancer, melanomas, even on brain tumors," Rixe said.
And all of it is happening right here in Augusta.
All Tomaszewski knows is that when she found out she had cancer, help was close by.
"On my way home from work, I stop at the cancer center and get my blood work done, and I go the next day to have my cancer treatment," Tomaszewski said. "I mean, it's been very convenient and one thing we haven't had to worry about in all this."
She told us her story at the kitchen table with a handmade calendar just over her shoulder. On it, you can see how the family marks each day with an "X," including Mother's Day earlier this month.
These days, her days are much more than marks on a calendar. She's determined to see many more Mother's Days.
"Definitely the reason I wanted to fight this was for my family. My husband and my three small children." she said.
Tomaszewski is cancer free today, and she wants you to know how important it is to do self exams because that's how she found her own cancer.