Support System at Hannibal Regional Makes World of Difference for Local Cancer Patient


After a successful hysterectomy, Deborah Bufford of Bowling Green, Missouri met with Dr. Jennifer Roberts, OBGYN at Hannibal Regional, for a post-operative appointment. During the appointment, Dr. Roberts suggested that Deborah have a routine mammogram and scheduled her for the following day. The Monday after her mammogram, Deborah received a phone call that the test showed a spot on her left breast. Completely taken by surprise, Deborah immediately felt a sense of fear fall over her. 

The next day Deborah returned to the Radiology Department at Hannibal Regional for a follow up 3D mammogram and then a biopsy to take a better look at the spot. After confirming that the spot was cancerous, Deborah met the radiologist and Radiology Nurse Navigator, Keegan Harvey. “I felt so scared and shocked. I had a sister who had breast cancer so this news was very terrifying. I was not sure what I would do, but as I was leaving the mammographer placed her hand on my shoulder and told me everything would be ok. She told me how great the doctors at Hannibal Regional are and that I was in good hands,” shares Deborah.

It was important to Deborah to stay close to home for her care and she felt choosing Hannibal Regional for cancer care was the right choice. She was scheduled for an appointment with breast specialist Dr. Stacey Copeland. Walking into the first appointment was nerve-wracking for Deborah. She had planned on bringing a friend with her, but the friend was unable to attend the actual appointment. Deborah shares, “I was absolutely scared to death to go to this appointment. I opened the door and there was Keegan, Radiology Nurse Navigator, waiting for me at the front desk. I was so surprised and relieved to see a familiar face. I had no idea that she would be attending the appointment with me. I really do not think I would have made it through without her.”

Radiology Nurse Navigator Keegan Harvey shares, “The navigator is often referred to as the glue that puts all the pieces of care together. That task may sound rather simple, but the reality is that it can be quite complicated. The care of breast patients so often involves multiple different physicians and healthcare providers. It is the role of the navigator to make sure the patient is ‘navigated’ through their care in the most seamless and timely fashion possible.”

During the appointment, Dr. Copeland talked to Deborah about options for treatment. Fortunately, the cancer was caught fairly early. With the help of Dr. Copeland, Deborah left with a plan of action. Dr. Copeland shares, “Hannibal Regional Hospital offers a comprehensive approach to diseases of the breast with multiple specialties involved in the care of the individual female patient. Breast cancer is very common but is also very effectively treated when diagnosed at an early stage.”

Deborah was set up with appointments to meet with oncologist Dr. Kevin Palka from the Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute and Radiation Oncologist Dr. Joseph Bean with the James E. Cary Cancer Center. To help Deborah navigate through these appointments, Keegan attended each appointment. She took notes for Deborah and alongside Deborah ’s friends and family, was there to support her through her journey. 

Surgery with Dr. Copeland was scheduled a couple weeks later. Deborah arrived early in the morning to get settled in. She was surprised to once again be greeted with a familiar face: Keegan. Deborah was taken back to have a Magseed Marker put in. This is a device which would allow Dr. Copeland to know exactly where the cancerous spot was, helping her to remove all of the cancer through a minimally invasive surgery. “While having my marker placed before surgery, Keegan held my hand and was right there the entire time. After the marker was placed, Dr. Copeland came in and talked with me. She was excellent! I had so much fear going into appointments and having a surgery scheduled, but Dr. Copeland and Keegan made me feel completely calm and at peace.”

Deborah was able to come home the same day of surgery and healed well. She continues to see oncologist Dr. Kevin Palka for treatment. Deborah shares, “Everyone I encountered at Hannibal Regional was amazing. Each person I met was kind and calming. Keegan is my true guardian angel. She helped me every step of the way and I don’t think I would have made it without her. Hannibal Regional not only provided me with the healthcare I needed, but a support system that made all the difference in the world.”

Hannibal Regional Hospital has been designated a Designated Comprehensive Breast Imaging Center by the American College of Radiology. When a patient chooses Hannibal Regional for breast screenings, they are receiving individualized care from a team of specialists. Under the care of a Radiology Nurse Navigator, this dedicated, individualized care makes it possible for the patient to receive the highest level of care. To learn more about women’s health screenings or to schedule a mammogram, please call 573-248-1300.