Stage 3 breast cancer: Moree's story

Photo of Moree Haskins, breast cancer patient at Jamestown Medical Oncology

Roswell Park's Care Network location in Jamestown provided access to nationally ranked cancer care.

Some say there’s no such thing as a coincidence. Others, like Albert Einstein, have said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” For Moree Haskins, a 73-year-old wife, mother of five, grandmother of nine and great-grandmother of one, there’s no doubt that an unexpected series of coincidences improved her odds of survival when she learned she had stage 3 breast cancer

In early 2021, Moree, who lives in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, noticed a lump under her left breast, but she was sure it wasn’t cancer. She mentioned it to her husband Butch; he mentioned it during a check-up with his long-time physician, who knew both Moree and Butch for many years. He strongly suggested Moree follow up with her primary care physician and offered to make introductions to a well-known breast cancer specialist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

“I clearly remember telling Butch, I don't have cancer,” says Moree. “I really didn't think I did. The small lump was in a very unusual spot on my lower breast bone and I was sure it was a cyst.” Moree had a mammogram and ultrasound, but the scans came back negative with a recommendation to repeat both tests in six months. In the meantime, she began preparing for hernia surgery and mentioned the lump to her surgeon who sent her for an MRI and a biopsy. It came back with the news she didn’t want to hear: Moree had an aggressive form of stage 3 breast cancer. 

Both her husband and daughter, Courtney, a nurse, urged her to connect with the cancer specialist her husband’s physician mentioned. “I’ve always said if I ever got cancer, I’d want to go to a cancer hospital,” recalls Moree. “I was already familiar with Roswell Park and knew from family and friends that it’s a cancer hospital with an excellent reputation.” 

Going to where the experts are

What Moree couldn’t imagine was that an old friend would soon be part of her recovery. The referred cancer specialist turned out to be David Crooks, MD, FACS, a surgical oncologist and the Medical Director of Roswell Park’s Community Patient Assistance & Care Transitions Program. "Dr. Crooks remembered me from more than 30 years ago when he worked at Charles Cole Memorial Hospital (now the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center). He often came into our restaurant, The Northern Pub and Eatery, with colleagues, family and friends. I felt I knew him well and made an appointment to see him as soon as possible.” 

In yet another coincidence, Dr. Crooks had just started seeing patients at Jamestown Medical Oncology & Hematology. “I remember that first visit so clearly,” says Moree. “The Jamestown office was two hours away, but I took the earliest possible appointment with Dr. Crooks. I didn’t have time to waste. Even though I was confused and scared, Dr. Crooks and I began reminiscing about old times and he helped me feel comforted and calmer. I really appreciated being taken care of by someone who had already examined my images and biopsy results and explained everything so thoroughly.” 

In addition to performing breast surgeries at Roswell Park’s main campus in Buffalo, Dr. Crooks sees patients at other Roswell Park Care Network locations: Breast Care of WNY in Williamsville and the Orchard Park and Jamestown locations. This network offers patients throughout the region more convenient access to cutting-edge cancer treatment and services. 

“We often see patients seeking second opinions,” says Dr. Crooks, who notes that Roswell Park is a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, offering added layers of specialized expertise. “When my patients have a biopsy, the results go directly to a specialized breast pathologist. The same is true for our breast radiologists who are specifically trained and experienced at looking at mammograms, breast ultrasounds and breast MRIs.” Patients also benefit from the experience and knowledge of cancer specialists who collaborate with cancer research and training programs nationally and globally. “We have the advantage of discussing complex cases with a multidisciplinary tumor board that includes medical oncologists, sub-specialty surgeons including plastic surgeons, breast radiologists, and breast pathologists as well as residents and research fellows,” says Dr. Crooks. 

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A personalized care plan

With breast cancer ranking as the second leading cause of death in women, being proactive is essential, says Dr. Crooks. “Breast cancer is a hereditary disease in 5 to 10% of patients, so we encourage people to learn who in their family has had this cancer and at what age. There are a lot of medical guidelines out there, but we believe breast cancer is highly individualized. We encourage women to put themselves first, gather information and share in all decision making.” 

Following her diagnosis, Moree began five months of chemotherapy at a local clinic that partners with Roswell Park to provide patient care. “There’s nothing nice about the side effects when you’re going through it all,” she says. “I was fortunate in that I had constant support from my husband and my daughter. Working with Dr. Crooks, who I’d known for so many years, helped make the experience easier for me as I felt so confident about my treatments and care.” 

After chemotherapy, Dr. Crooks performed a lumpectomy and lymph node surgery and Moree followed up with two months of radiation therapy and immunotherapy. She schedules mammograms every six months as well as an MRI annually at Roswell Park. She’ll take a daily hormone treatment that lowers levels of estrogen hormones for at least five years to help inhibit the return of her hormone-dependent cancer. “There are some side effects but, if the medication is doing what it's supposed to, I’m okay with that,” says Moree. 

“I’ve had God wink after God wink after God wink,” says Moree. “I’m just so blessed to have had a strong support system to help me through this. Dr. Crooks was so thorough, patient and caring every step of the way and continues to check in with me. Butch, my husband of 55 years, is always looking out for me and my daughter makes sure I am getting the best care. Dr. Crooks even thanked my daughter Courtney for being my advocate. If it wasn't for her, I'm not sure how things would have gone after my local hospital asked me to wait six months before having another mammogram. If I would have done that, it might have been too late.”

Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.