Bronzeville doctor finds herself as patient after cancer diagnosis

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As a practicing physician, Dr. Sheri Prentiss has delivered cancer diagnoses to numerous patients. But she recently found herself on the receiving end of that troubling news.

"My heart just dropped. It was something in my spirit that just everything left me. I felt so empty. I felt so vulnerable," she said.

The fateful phone call came 11 years ago.

"And she said, 'Your biopsy came back positive. It's invasive carcinoma, so we have to get you scheduled for surgery,'" Prentiss said.

She had a mammogram just six months earlier that came back clear. But now, finding herself switching from doctor to patient, she struggled to make sense of her new role.

"You would think, being a physician, some of these things would automatically come back to you," she said. "They leave. Your mind goes completely blank."

Prentiss was going through a divorce at the time of her treatment and her mother was in hospice care. Doctors also discovered a congenital heart defect in the course of her treatment, which was exacerbated by chemotherapy. A few months later she was terminated from her job because of lymphedema.

"My life was just ripped inside out and turned upside down," she said.

Prentiss said she was inspired to share her story to raise awareness and help others who are struggling with depression and a changed body after cancer treatment.

"I don't negate being a survivor," she said. "I'm blessed to be a survivor but lymphedema has completely changed my life. We need to get the story out that this is a disease caused by another disease, and there is no cure for this."

Compression garments for those living with lymphedema are expensive, costing anywhere between $350-2,500. Prentiss started a foundation called LIVE Today that offers free garments to anyone in need.

"You will get through this and life will go on and you can be happy and healthy after a cancer diagnosis," she wants other survivors to know. "Look at me and look at those around you."
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