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Breast Cancer Survivor Lauds the “Sylvester Difference”

When Judy Aguirre was diagnosed with breast cancer, a million thoughts ran through her head. But the one thing she never questioned was where she would be treated.

Judy Aguirre’s business, Cookies for Jani, grew out of the treats she baked for the doctors and nurses who cared for her cousin.

She knew that when it came to cancer care, there is none better than Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System, and South Florida’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.

“I firmly believe what makes Sylvester stand out is the targeted treatments and compassionate care provided to all their patients,” said Aguirre, who was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in 2019. “I saw it when my father was treated for squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma 25 years ago and can attest it still exists today, stronger than ever.”

Aguirre says she was so impressed by the state-of-the-art medicine and compassionate care her father received that she began supporting the research of Sylvester’s physician-scientists through personal philanthropy and proceeds from a small business she created. That business, Cookies for Jani, blossomed out of demand for the treats she baked to thank the doctors and nurses who cared for her cousin while she was treated for ovarian cancer.

Sylvester’s Patient-Focused Cancer Care

“Although cancer has touched my family, I never thought I would one day experience what I like to call the ‘Sylvester difference,’” said Aguirre. “As a comprehensive cancer center, Sylvester’s physicians treat patients from across South Florida and around the world, yet somehow, they make you feel like they are focused solely on you, that you are their only patient.”

To illustrate the level of personalized attention provided to each patient, Aguirre shares the story of her first meeting with Susan Kesmodel, M.D., director of breast surgical oncology at Sylvester. The appointment was at 5 p.m. on a Friday. Aguirre walked out of Dr. Kesmodel’s office after 7:30 p.m. Dr. Kesmodel gave Aguirre her undivided attention, speaking to her with compassion and concern while explaining every detail of the treatment plan. 

Judy Aguirre witnessed Sylvester’s compassionate care when her father was treated for squamous cell carcinoma and then experienced it herself after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Aguirre added that it’s not just the physicians that make Sylvester special. She says every person she met throughout her cancer journey, from the doctors and nurses to the infusion specialists and valet attendants who parked her car, were focused on her well-being and her survivorship.

“Cancer is a scary word. From the moment you get that diagnosis, you become a different person. It’s always in the back of your mind,” explains Aguirre. “But the team at Sylvester makes it all right. They are there for you and with you every step of the way.”

Reducing the Burden of Cancer

Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., is grateful for Aguirre’s heartfelt acknowledgment and appreciation.

“At Sylvester, a key part of our mission is to reduce the human burden from cancer, and one of the ways we do that is by providing patient-focused care,” said Dr. Nimer, the Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and executive dean of research at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “Knowing that we are making such a positive impact on our patients is what fuels our relentless pursuit for a cure to cancer.” 

Aguirre has been cancer-free for almost five years and says she is eternally grateful for the expert care she received at Sylvester. That is why she makes it a priority to support Sylvester’s physicians and researchers, and help equip them with the cutting-edge technology and resources needed to advance cancer care through novel treatments like precision medicine, immunotherapy and experimental therapeutics.

Get Involved

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect time to support Sylvester research.

Tags: breast cancer, cancer research, Dr. Susan Kesmodel, philanthropy, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center