VALPARAISO — The pair of doctors who treated Julie Adams' cancer have great chemistry.
In fact, they're married.
Adams, a Schererville administrative assistant, said she was comforted to know her physicians are so close.
"I loved her and loved the whole experience with her," Adams said of her medical oncologist, Dr. Neeru Bose, who is based in Crown Point. "I knew her husband was a plastic surgeon. I went to her when I wasn't happy with the plastic surgery care I was receiving. Since I loved her so much, I wanted to meet him. And he was just delightful."
Neeru Bose actually helped recruit her husband, Dr. Lohith Bose, to the Region. He was doing a plastic surgery residency at Loyola University when she told him there was a need for breast reconstruction in Northwest Indiana.
"Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in this country," he said.
A year ago, he opened a practice in Valparaiso, focusing on breast reconstruction. He has since teamed up with his wife on half a dozen cases.
"We're so obsessed with chemo and radiation, we don't think about reconstruction: how you look afterward, your self-image," she said, noting that Adams was the perfect candidate for reconstruction. "She's young. She's vivacious. She's a mom. If you look at her, you'd never knew she had the type of year she just had."
"It's a daunting diagnosis to have in the first place: a lot of emotions involved," he said. "But they're not doomed to have flat chests the rest of their lives. It's something for them to look forward to."
Neeru Bose said she always refers her breast cancer patients to a more than one plastic surgeon, so they can work with the one they best vibe with.
"She doesn't just throw me a bone," Lohith said.
"It puts pressure on both of us to be better because we are sharing that patient," Neeru said. "Any confidence lost in him is confidence lost in me and vice versa. That's why I always tread lightly when I make the recommendation."
Neeru explained the difference in she and her husband's personalities and approaches to medicine.
"I'm more warm and fuzzy, and he's more entertaining," she said. (He noted that plastic surgery presents a lot of opportunities for medical humor, second only to urologists.)
"That's true," Adams said. "That's 100 percent true."
"He's more tell-it-like-it-is," Neeru said. "I'm make-your-tooth-hurt sweet and he's not."
Adams was diagnosed April 30, 2016. She was 47 years old.
The original plan was to do a radiation and lumpectomy, but then a genetic test revealed she had the BRCA1 gene, which increases her chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer. She learned her father's mother and sister both died of the latter.
So after chemotherapy, last November she underwent a double mastectomy (she also had a hysterectomy last month). She had a tissue expander, implant-based reconstruction.
"Twenty years ago, her type of breast cancer had a very poor prognosis," Neeru said.
Now it's largely treatable.
"But it's a long haul, and it's exhausting," Neeru said. "Every three weeks, getting that treatment for an hour, seeing us every three weeks."
"You had a tough case, got through it like a champ, and now we're sitting on this couch," Neeru said as the three reunited on a recent day at her husband's office in Valparaiso.
"I'm not laying down," Adams said.
Adams has a 14-year-old girl and 12-year-old twin boys.
"I had to be strong for them," she said. "To them 'Mom has cancer' that means she's going to die. I had to prove you can fight through it and come out just fine. I only cried two times in 17 months."
"She was amazing," said her friend Lisa Gaper.
"I was amazing," Adams replied.
Adams, now 49, has started a support group with other cancer survivors (they get together to "drink and bitch," she said). She has to see Neeru every three months for the first two years after her diagnosis, every six months after the second year, and annually after the fifth year. She also has to visit Lohith every year because the implants don't last forever.
"There's a lot of breast cancer in Northwest Indiana," Neeru said. "People think they're the only ones when they're not.
"A lot of patients don't have a good support system and great network. Sometimes it just helps seeing someone else go through it and they live in your community."