When Tallmadge resident Mary Overholt had an episode of post-menopausal bleeding, she didn’t just ignore it. Instead, she scheduled a visit to her doctor right away – and it’s a good thing she did.
Mary later learned she had uterine cancer.
“I didn’t really have any symptoms. I had one bout of post-menopausal bleeding. That’s the only thing that tipped me off. I thought, ‘that’s just not right,’” she said.
“A lot of women would ignore it. Some women have ignored it.”
But Mary Overholt doesn’t take any chances when it comes to her health.
Mary’s doctors referred her to Dr. Vivian von Gruenigen, a nationally-renowned gynecologic oncologist at Summa Health System.
Dr. von Gruenigen told Mary she was a candidate for having her surgery performed using the new, minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgical system available at Summa Akron City Hospital’s Cooper Cancer Center.
Mary was surprised to learn how the surgery would be performed.
“I was just totally amazed when my doctor said how they were going to do it,” she said. “‘She said, “Oh, the robot’s going to do it.’
And I said, “‘What?’”
Mary’s surgeon explained that the robot doesn’t perform the surgery – the surgeon does. The surgeon guides the robotic instruments from a control panel located near the patient. The robot, with its’ three-dimensional imaging and magnification capabilities, functions as an extension of the surgeon’s own hands and eyes.
By choosing robotic surgery, Mary would be back to her old self again much sooner – and enjoying the activities she loves – like gardening. And she would have less pain, less bleeding and the incisions made during the surgery would be very small.
The obvious benefits of robotic surgery appealed to Mary. It was an attractive alternative to a more traditional surgical approach.
“Oh my gosh…rather than being cut open like they used to do in the past…That’s what I was thinking of is this huge incision that I would have to deal with,” she said. “Many of my friends have had it [a hysterectomy] and they have a scar and six to eight months of recovery.”
Mary opted to follow her surgeon’s advice and “let the robot do it” – and she has been very satisfied with the results.
“It was a same-day surgery. I was in overnight and home by 9:00 a.m. the next morning. I felt fine,” Mary said.
Mary appreciated the quality care she received during her brief stay in the hospital.
“Everybody there at Summa was so caring and so attentive. It seemed like as soon as I wanted something…well, I didn’t even have to ask for anything because they were always there. I couldn’t have gotten any better care,” she said.
Mary went home the next day – with just a few Band-Aids® covering the four small incisions on her abdomen.
“They covered it with a Band-Aid® and I was able to take those off the following day when I got home,” she said. “To have all that done [a hysterectomy] and have it just covered with a Band-Aid®?”
“There were maybe a couple of little stitches and they just dissolved on their own. No infection,” she said.
Mary discovered that after her surgery, with just a few limitations, she could pretty much do whatever she wanted to do.
“They didn’t want me driving for two weeks. And they said don’t lift anything heavier than a milk jug,” she said. “But otherwise, just do what you want to do – which I did. I went out. I went shopping. I went over to the Rec Center. I started walking. It was amazing. I was able to get on my lawn tractor. They just told me to go slow on it and I did. I started mowing my grass a couple of weeks after [surgery]. I was just back to normal in no time. It was just hard to believe.”
“Even my friends said, ‘You just had surgery and you’re out looking as good as you do and you’re out doing this and doing that.’ I said ‘the robot did it.’ A lot of them hadn’t heard [about] that,” Mary said.
Mary continues to spread the word about the benefits of robotic surgery to her friends and neighbors.
“I just hope that more women are aware of the robotic surgery,” she said. “If their hospital doesn’t do it, I hope they can go to a Summa hospital that has that robot.”
“This robotic surgery is just amazing,” Mary says. “The robot can do so much more. The robot can handle more delicate procedures than the human hand…and everything is magnified so greatly…they [surgeons] can see so much better through this instrument than they can with their own eyes – even with magnifiers on.”
Mary does have one important piece of advice for others: if you notice something different about your body, don’t waste any time in getting it checked out by a doctor.
“Luckily, I followed through with my instinct when I thought something isn’t right. Bleeding after menopause is not normal. Do not ignore it because something is wrong. Have it checked out – the sooner, the better,” Mary says.