One Family’s Journey to Good Health
Fertility treatments, pregnancy, childbirth, specialized neonatal care, gene testing, mammograms and breast cancer surgery: The Margot Perot Center for Women and Infants at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas has been with Allison Parkey through it all. The Margot Perot Center is known for providing comprehensive resources and support to women throughout their various stages of life. Allison understands all too well the value of such a place.
“We never specifically planned to take advantage of services in the Margot Perot Center and Texas Health Dallas,” Allison recalled. “But when my husband, Ben, and I did research to find the best area doctors, we learned they practiced there every time. The hospital definitely has the best of the best in Dallas.”
A Home Away From Home
Allison’s first encounter with Texas Health Dallas and the Margot Perot Center came in 2009, when the now 38-year-old was undergoing fertility treatments with help from the Assisted Reproductive Technology Services (ARTS) program housed in the Center.
Stella Parkey was born Sept. 29, 2010 – five weeks earlier than expected due to Allison’s water breaking prematurely. As a preemie, Stella needed a little support until her lungs could develop and she could learn to eat on her own. She got the medical care she needed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) located inside the Margot Perot Center. The Level III NICU provides 24-hour care in a self-contained program that includes high-tech therapies, advanced equipment and a host of experienced nurses, physicians and surgeons. When Stella’s health improved, she transitioned to the Center’s Special Care Nursery (SCN) until she was strong enough to go home with Allison and Ben several weeks later.
“I wish I could remember the names of all of the nurses who helped take care of Stella,” Allison said. “I do remember one wonderful NICU nurse, Laura Helton, who has become my Facebook friend. All of the NICU and SCN nurses were just fantastic and so eager to share information with us. It was like a home away from home. We always look forward to seeing familiar staff faces at the yearly NICU reunion.”
On to a New Chapter of Caring
When Stella was just one year old, Allison got the news that she had an aggressive and fast-growing form of breast cancer. She again found herself back at the Margot Perot Center. There, Allison was able to take advantage of a range of advanced services as part of the hospital’s breast care program. Diagnostic mammograms helped pinpoint the location and size of her tumor, and gene testing was done because of her family history of cancers.
“After being tested, I found out that I was positive for the BRCA-2 gene that determines a person’s susceptibility to breast cancer,” Allison said. “Even though my aunt and both grandmothers had breast cancer, I learned I inherited the gene from my dad who had melanoma and prostate cancer. Since this gene puts me at an 87-percent chance of having breast cancer in my lifetime, I would have been tested at an earlier age if I had known. I also would have been more proactive and started mammograms sooner. If you have a first-degree relative who has had cancer, it may be worth doing the gene testing. And, of course, get your mammograms – even if you think you are too young for cancer. That’s the message I now share repeatedly.”
Knowing what she did, Allison was able to make an informed decision about her next steps. The hospital’s dedicated breast care team and a nurse navigator provided much-needed support when she decided to undergo a bilateral (double) mastectomy. Before doing so, she also made the decision to have an egg retrieval procedure done for future family planning purposes. In addition, Allison underwent four other surgical procedures inside the Margot Perot Center: port placement for chemotherapy and sentinel node testing, replacement of her temporary breast implants with final silicone ones, port removal and nipple reconstruction, and a full hysterectomy to offset her high chance of getting ovarian/uterine/fallopian tube cancer due to the BRCA-2 gene.
It was then on to an aggressive course of chemotherapy, done once again inside the comforting walls of the Margot Perot Center. The 16 rounds of treatment were harsh. Allison lost her hair and was often sick. But she now looks back at the experience as being a journey to good health. It’s been 3 years and 2 months in remission…and counting!
Message of Hope
“When you have a scare like I have had, and have been to as many doctors as I have, you appreciate life every single day. It puts everything in perspective. I’m so grateful for every day that I get to be Stella’s mom and Ben’s wife. And, I’m so grateful for all of the doctors and nurses at Texas Health Dallas who have taken care of us over the years and given me a second chance at life. We are huge supporters and fans of the Perot Center in our family.”
“If I can help just one person through my challenges, it will be worth it. Ladies, be aware of your bodies and act. Go to the doctor if you find anything suspicious. And gentlemen, encourage the ladies in your life to do just that,” Allison added.