Dr. Lori Platt

Breast Cancer Survivor

When Lori Platt, MD found a mass in her breast, she called her friend and medical partner, Toby Marshall, MD. 

“Lori, don’t panic,” he said, quickly offering reassurance when they spoke. Lori, not yet eight months pregnant with her second child, was a patient on Methodist Women’s Hospital’s high risk OB unit suddenly facing two devastating possibilities: preterm childbirth and an aggressive, late-stage breast cancer. “As physicians, we know every bad thing that can possibly happen,” Dr. Marshall explained. “That doesn’t mean it will.” 

The imaging tests and biopsy results confirmed their worst fears; Lori had discovered a likely Stage 3 invasive lobular carcinoma. Lori says, “My husband Matt and I hugged each other and cried, wondering why this was happening to us.”

Although some cancer treatments can begin safely during pregnancy, others cannot, and while Lori was pregnant, there was no way to know if the cancer had metastasized. “There is no single right answer regarding when to deliver and start cancer treatment,” explained Robert Bonebrake, MD, maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the Methodist Perinatal Center. “This is a case by- case, multidisciplinary decision that varies by the risks and benefits to mother and baby, degree of prematurity, and the specific type, stage and aggressive nature of the cancer.”

The advice from Methodist Women’s Hospital neonatologist Lynn O’Hanlon, MD, who led the baby’s care team, was direct: Lori was dilated to 7 centimeters, ready for delivery, and the baby, while premature, was fine.

“It was clear to me,” Dr. O’Hanlon said, “we needed to deliver this baby.”

On October 6, Estelle Kaye Rase was born. “Estelle came out beautiful and healthy, greeting us with a big smile,” Matt said. “She was happy to be out in the world, and we needed some happiness in our lives.” Estelle spent the next 24 days in the NICU, thriving as her feeding skills matured. With Estelle safe, Lori could focus on the cancer.

Lori was determined to fight for her life. “My medical training kicked in,” she explained. “I knew what game plan I wanted, and, of course, I wanted my team at Methodist Jennie Edmundson. Our Breast Health Center is small but mighty. ”

“Lori did the research,” Matt said. “She could have gone anywhere, and she felt strongly about choosing Jennie.”

She underwent a double mastectomy, due to additional areas of concern in the other breast, 12 days after giving birth. Four months of chemotherapy were followed by six weeks of daily radiation therapy delivered over Dr. Platt’s lunch breaks.

By this time, she had returned to work nearly full-time. She had worn a wig at first, not for vanity but for expediency. “I didn’t want to explain every time someone saw my bald head. The focus shouldn’t be on me,” Dr. Platt said. “It’s about my patients.” As time passed, she traded the wig for a three-word explanation. If patients asked, “Doctor, what happened to you?” she would smile and say, “Breast cancer. Chemo.”

Everyone rejoiced when recent tests revealed Lori’s tumor markers had dropped into the normal range. “I’m fortunate that there is so much research and so many medicines to treat breast cancer,” Lori said. “That is not true for all cancers, and more funding should be poured into all cancer research.”

Whether she is caring for patients or spending precious time with family, Lori says she feels blessed, lucky and full of hope. “Estelle came early to tell me to pay attention,” Lori said, “and I did.”