At work, survivor ushers in new life

Registered nurse Kim Schultz stops on the labor and delivery floor at University Hospital, her mouth open in happy shock.


"You're here?" she asks registered nurse Sherry Scott.

"I'm here," says Mrs. Scott, who is battling breast cancer and had just returned that morning after some time off.

"I'm so glad," says Mrs. Schultz, who is also Mrs. Scott's niece.

Even though she is not even halfway through her chemotherapy, and will still have six weeks of radiation therapy after that, Mrs. Scott is back to helping deliver babies.

In May, she joined the estimated 182,460 women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society, including nearly 5,000 in Georgia. She is determined not to be among the 1,000 in Georgia who will succumb to it this year.

The night before she was to go back to work, Mrs. Scott admitted she's a little nervous.

"I hope I haven't forgotten everything," she joked.

But right away at 7 a.m., 13 years of experience have kicked back in. She is sitting by the bedside of Susan Mattison, 34, who is straining to have her third child.

"Daddy wants a little girl," Mrs. Mattison says. Her husband Grant Mattison, 37, sits on a nearby couch. His mother had breast cancer, though she died from other complications at age 53, he says.

Mrs. Mattison looks sympathetically at Mrs. Scott.

"Be strong," she tells her.

"I am," Mrs. Scott says. "God has been very good to me."

After that, she is no longer a breast cancer patient but a nurse on a mission. She sits by the bed with her eyes glued to a computer screen showing mother and baby's heart rates and another line charting contractions. Mrs. Mattison's heart rate dips just before each big contraction.

"We call those 'earlies,'" Mrs. Scott says.

She makes notes in the chart as she chats with the Mattisons, the talk veering between kids clothes and eBay to food to the weird things boys will do, like eating Milkbone dog biscuits.

"When they get quiet, you go check," Mrs. Mattison says.

"Mmmhmmm," Mrs. Scott says knowingly.

Mrs. Mattison has an epidural IV hanging by her bed.

"Ooh, now I can feel something," she says.

"You want a little shot of the epidural medicine?" Mrs. Scott asks.

"Can I?"

Mrs. Scott hits a button on a machine on the IV pole.

"There you go."

OUTSIDE AT the nurse's station, Mrs. Schultz beams about the return of Mrs. Scott, whom she calls her role model.

"She is a wonderful, wonderful nurse," Mrs. Schultz says. "She just knows what to do. She knows how to handle things. I think in her private life she's that way, too."

Mrs. Scott is also glad to be back with her nursing family.

"I spend more time awake with them than I do my own family," she says.

Obstetrician Dr. George Williams comes in the room and gives Mrs. Scott a big hug.

"The computers are new," she tells him. "Everything else, it's pretty much the same."

Over the next couple of hours, they talk about family. The Mattisons have two little boys, 5-year-old William and 2-year-old Bryant, named after legendary Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.

Mrs. Scott talks about taking her 9-year-old daughter, Carter, down to the Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival to dance with her group.

"She clogged down there," she says.

"I used to clog!" Mrs. Mattison says. "When I have a little girl, I want her to do it."

Mrs. Scott regularly checks under the sheet to see how Mrs. Mattison is progressing.

"OK. I'm going to get our scrub tech and get everything set up already," she says, about four hours after she came into the room. "With you being 5 centimeters, you may just go a little faster on me. That way we'll have everything ready."

Before the scrub tech can get there, Mrs. Scott does another exam and finds Mrs. Mattison has progressed to 8 centimeters.

"You're very close," Mrs. Scott said, as Mrs. Mattison begins to grip the handrails of the bed. Assistant Nurse Manager Veronica Bullock comes in to help.

"Alright, is it almost baby time in here?" she asks.

Mr. Mattison digs out the digital camera and his wife begins flipping through the images.

"I'm trying to find a picture of my boys," she says. "Here they are."

"How precious," Mrs. Scott says, leaning in to look at the camera. "They both have beautiful eyes. Yeah, she's really going to be spoiled with these two boys."

Mrs. Mattison groans louder.

"OK, you're ready to start pushing," Mrs. Scott says. Then she escorts out a visitor, her face beaming.

"This is the best part of my job," she says.

Caroline Mattison, named in honor of Mrs. Mattison's late mother, Carole Ann, is born about 20 minutes later.

"She was great," Mrs. Mattison says later of Mrs. Scott. "I was watching her with Caroline. She just scooped her up and went over to warm her up. I would have been nervous but she just jumped right in."

MRS. SCOTT AND fellow breast cancer patient Amy Winn are also ready to jump into the role of breast cancer survivor, their future. And that future is very, very pink.

Every hue of pink adorns a banquet room at Savannah Rapids Pavilion for the Think Pink Luncheon -- the multitude of shades mingling around the room in the form of jackets, blouses, purses and shoes.

Mrs. Scott is sitting afterward, chatting at a table with Mrs. Winn, who spoke at the event, when Jeri Whitworth, a survivor for a year and three months, taps Mrs. Scott on the arm.

"How many years for you?" Mrs. Whitworth asks.

"I'm still going through it," Mrs. Scott says.

And that is the great thing about the modern treatment, Mrs. Whitworth says.

"She looks so good, so healthy," she says.

It is something both women say now runs through their minds. Where before she might have gotten impatient with the lady ahead of her in the grocery store line fumbling through her purse, now Mrs. Scott says she takes a step back.

"That's where you're humbled and you learn your patience," she says. "You don't know, her husband might have had open heart surgery or she may have breast cancer. I think that's a big lesson that you learn through all of this. Not everybody looks like something is wrong with them. You don't know what they're facing."

The brilliant display of pink continues that night at the University Hospital Breast Cancer Survivor Dinner, including a man in a tasteful pink suit and pink shoes. Pam Shivers, wearing a bandana and ball cap, walks up to Mrs. Winn and Mrs. Scott.

"I didn't wear my wig today," she says. "Too sticky."

Both women nod knowingly.

"It does get really sore," Mrs. Winn said.

"I'm sorry I didn't call you back," Mrs. Shivers says to Mrs. Scott.

They are both mothers of young children who met up at a doctor's office and an American Cancer Society event in August.

"I was worried about you," Mrs. Scott says.

"I know, it was just one of those days," says Mrs. Shivers, who gets her chemotherapy on Thursdays. "Monday was not a good day. Saturday, Sunday and Monday are not good days."

And somehow, Ms. Shivers says, she's gained weight since she started chemo.

"One thing is I like to work out and I haven't been able to do that," she says.

Mrs. Winn has been turning to foods she thinks would make her less nauseated.

"Potatoes and bread and crackers and cheese, stuff that I ordinarily wouldn't eat," she says.

"And smells," Mrs. Shivers chimes in. "Oh my gosh."

"When they started my Cytoxan (chemotherapy drug), it was like I had inhaled some fumes or something," Mrs Winn says.

"I'm sweating it already," says Mrs. Shivers, who is also getting Cytoxan as part of her regimen. "I dread it every time."

University Breast Health Center Director Pam Anderson takes the stage. For those women who are open to it, she often shares a favorite passage from the Bible: Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."

Mrs. Scott got her third chemotherapy treatment Friday. She has three more ahead of her, then radiation for six weeks after that. There is also a mass around her pancreas and stomach that showed up in a CT scan that she doesn't talk about much.

"I kind of feel like we've prayed it out of me," she says. "I'm trusting that God has taken care of that already."

When her treatment is over, there will be a follow-up CT scan.

"Right now there's nothing we can really do," she says.

Instead, she looks to the future as a survivor.

"I've got a positive outlook for it all," she says. "I'm halfway there."

And she has faith she will make it through.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A few months ago, The Augusta Chronicle began following recently diagnosed breast cancer patient Sherry Scott as she began her treatment after surgery. Her story is told in a three-part series that concludes today. Mrs. Scott and her family wanted to share what their family is going through in the hopes of helping others facing a similar battle.

SUNDAY: Getting the diagnosis

MONDAY: The first chemotherapy treatment

TODAY: Returning to work