Hacketts Road to Recovery

In the fall of 2013 Connie decided to take advantage of the mobile mammogram at Daktronics.  Unfortunately, the mammogram had revealed calcifications; another would be necessary to determine whether those calcifications were malignant or benign.  After a second “magnified” mammogram and biopsy in Sioux Falls, Connie again received word from her doctor.  The test results determined that in this case, the calcifications were not benign. 

 Connie was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early form of breast cancer, and was immediately assigned a care team, including a surgeon, an oncologist, a radiologist, a plastic surgeon, and a nurse navigator at Avera Breast Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls.

On Wednesday, 20 November 2013, Connie underwent surgery to remove the malignant calcifications. But she was not out of the woods yet. The surgery revealed a “very small, but aggressive” HER2+ tumor. Connie would have to endure a second surgery to remove several lymph nodes to test whether the cancer had spread.  Thankfully, the cancer was confined to the tumor. Connie endured 6 weeks of radiation treatment in Sioux Falls ending in January 2014 and worked primarily from the Sioux Falls office during that time.

Connie’s cancer was caught early and we happily report at her last checkup she continues to be cancer free. 

 Fast forwarding to early December 2014, Bill Hackett, Connie’s husband, visited his primary care physician for a routine diabetes progress checkup.  While he was there, he had his doctor look at spot on his tongue.  Although Bill and Connie suspected it was nothing serious, the opposite was true. 

 After a CAT scan and a biopsy, Bill was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma.  Surgery was scheduled at Avera in Sioux Falls.  The medical staff at Avera looked at Bill’s test results and determined the best course of action was to send him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  The Mayo Clinic offered Bill a team of specialists who have performed this type of surgery numerous times. 

On Christmas day, Connie and Bill headed for Rochester with the hope that surgery could be performed Monday December 29, 2014.  The doctors required additional tests, including a PET scan, before surgery would be performed.  Fortunately, the PET scan revealed the cancer had not spread and was limited to his mouth and tongue.

On Monday, January 5, 2015 Bill underwent an eight hour surgery to remove part of his tongue.  The team of surgeons then reconstructed his tongue with the skin, artery, and nerves from his wrist and forearm.  The invasive surgery required a tracheotomy so he could breathe, this was needed because his tongue was swollen and blocked his airway.  The surgeons found additional cancer in a few of his lymph nodes, which they promptly removed.  Surgery required the removal of almost 2/3 of Bill’s tongue and they are hopeful he will regain his ability to speak and eat.

 After surgery, Bill remained hospitalized for five nights.  While the tracheotomy has been removed, Bill will have to keep the feeding tube because his tongue and mouth remain swollen.   During his hospitalization, Connie, along with their two daughters, Kristen, and Karissa, took turns spending the night at Bill’s side. 

Bill’s road to recovery has just begun.  His surgery was aggressive and will require numerous checkups and tests, along with 6 weeks of radiation and the possibility of chemotherapy.  This means frequent trips to the Mayo Clinic, which is 235 miles from their home in Brookings, SD.  

Bill and Connie are inspiring, kind, and selfless people who continually help others.  Our hope is to help recover some of the expenses associated with these life altering diagnoses, surgeries, and recoveries.  The funds will be used to support Bill and Connie and their expenses as they navigate a very long road to recovery.
  • ANGELA GROSS 
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Organizer

Alicia Bennett 
Organizer
Brookings, SD
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