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Albany Med Today

Survivor Found Care Close to Home


For Shirley Arensberg, the news last April on her birthday was like a lightning bolt — completely unexpected.

“I went for my annual mammogram, it showed something abnormal and my physician sent me to Dr. (Donna) Pietrocola (’75) at Albany Med. She ordered a biopsy and ultrasound at the Breast Care Center that confirmed I had Stage I breast cancer,” recalled the longtime Albany resident, retired Albany school teacher, mother of two and grandmother of a 5-year old.

At the urging of her family, she traveled to Dana Farber Cancer Institute for a second opinion, fully prepared to stay in Boston for the treatments they recommended but also seriously concerned about how that stay would affect her life.

“Fortunately, in the end I didn’t have to go far from home to be treated by the best doctors,” she said. “In fact, when I asked the oncologists in Boston, they recommended Albany Med.

“My life — and my family’s life — would have been totally upended if I had to go out of town to be treated. They were worried enough as it was.

“And work-wise, my diagnosis couldn’t have come at a worse time,” explained Arensberg, who since 1995 has served as the director of education at Albany’s Park Playhouse, which provides free summer theater in Washington Park. “I needed to be in Albany. We were getting ready for the 25th anniversary season. And the education program was gearing up to bring Park Playhouse’s year-round arts in education program for the first time to every elementary school in the City of Albany.”

Now, seven months later, Arensberg has completed 33 rounds of radiation, has a clean bill of health and only praise for Albany Med, the Breast Care Center and the team that treated her.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of early detection and how it enables you to continue your life, work and the things you love and still be able to be with your grandchildren,” she said. “And, truly, those doctors in Boston were right: There is no place better than Albany Med.”

How To Give

To learn more about being part of Albany Med’s Lifeline campaign and our role as a vital regional resource — a place known for its expertise and chosen for its care — go to www.amc.edu/give, email Development@mail.amc.edu or call 518-262-3322.