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Healthy You

Busy Volunteer Gets Back to Giving - A Proactive Approach to Wellness Saved Her Life

Monday, August 03, 2020 10:00 AM

LaVera Davis has devoted her retirement years in service to others. The 71-year-old North Chicago resident is a grateful breast cancer survivor who fills her days giving back to the community. She volunteers at numerous charitable agencies—from serving coffee and event planning at the Lovell Veteran’s Hospital to driving patients to doctor appointments through the Eldercare program.

LaVera Davis

Watchful Eye
Davis, whose mother and aunt both died of gall bladder cancer, also understands the importance of keeping close tabs on her own health. Last year, when a dull pain on her right side persisted, she took action and went to see her NorthShore-affiliated gastroenterologist Walter Glaws, MD. A CT scan revealed gallstones. While that did not surprise Davis, something suspicious on her pancreas sounded an alarm.

“I had no idea there was a more serious threat until I had that test,” Davis recalled.

Dr. Glaws referred Davis to Melissa Hogg, MD, NorthShore’s Director of Liver and Pancreas Surgery. After further testing, Dr. Hogg identified a high-risk cyst in Davis’ pancreas and the final pathology report found a precancerous growth in her gall bladder as well. Both organs are critical components of the digestive system.

“I don’t typically perform surgery on a case like this,” Dr. Hogg explained. “But with LaVera’s previous breast cancer, her family history and the fact that she carries the BRCA2 genetic mutation, we know she’s at higher risk for cancer. It required immediate action.”

Easy-to-Digest Action Plan
Dr. Hogg performed robotic surgery to remove Davis’s gallbladder and part of her pancreas. “It’s minimally invasive, so we’re able to make smaller incisions,” noted Dr. Hogg. “With this advanced technique, patients spend less time in the hospital, require less pain medication and have a quicker recovery.”

That was important because Davis was eager to get back to helping others through her Waukegan Church and multiple roles with the American Legion Auxiliary. She also participates in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Fully recovered and back to volunteering, Davis is quick to thank everyone she encountered at NorthShore. “Everyone was so professional and thoughtful,” she said. “I just had a great experience.”

Dr. Hogg has equally high praise for her conscientious patient, who is cancer-free but will need continued surveillance. “LaVera is an advocate for others, but also for her own health. By being proactive, she helped save her own life.”