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Comfort and Confidence Through Treatment at Washington Hospital

  • Category: Cancer
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Comfort and Confidence Through Treatment at Washington Hospital

For more than 30 years, Washington Hospital Health System (WHHS) has been Sheila Amaral’s hospital. Even after moving to San Jose in 1998, Sheila still traveled to Fremont for her health care needs. So, in mid-August 2022, when it was time for her annual mammogram, she drove the half hour to Fremont to the WHHS Women’s Center.

At the time, she was living her best life–she had just turned 54; celebrated her fourth wedding anniversary with Paul, the love of her life; worked at a job she enjoyed; and was in great health. So, when she was asked to come back for a second mammogram the day after the first, she wasn’t concerned. It was only after she arrived and found she was to have an ultrasound as well that she began to think something might be wrong.

Sheila’s imaging tests showed a small lump and she was scheduled for a biopsy at the UCSF - Washington Cancer Center. The collaboration between UCSF Health and WHHS began in 2017, providing Tri-City residents with access to high-quality cancer screening, treatment and technology close to home. Sheila arrived at the center filled with anxiety and was met by the Women’s Center Coordinator and Breast Health Nurse Navigator, Christine Mikkelsen, BSN, RN.

“Christine appeared like a guardian angel,” Sheila said. “I was afraid–of needles, of the biopsy results, of everything–and she just stepped in and took care of me.”

Just two weeks after her first mammogram, Sheila was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. Coordinated by Mikkelsen, the cancer center team jumped into action. Because the center offers comprehensive care for patients, Sheila was able to schedule consultations with cancer center Medical Director and oncologist, Bogdan Eftimie, MD; surgeon, William Wood, MD; and Washington Radiation Oncology Center Medical Director and radiation oncologist, Emi Yoshida, MD, in one place to discuss her plan of care.

At the end of September, she had a lumpectomy and removal of three lymph nodes. Two weeks later, she went back for another surgery to clear the original margins. Officially cancer free, Sheila’s care transitioned from Dr. Eftimie to Dr. Yoshida, who recommended a course of radiation therapy to ensure nothing was missed.

Mikkelsen would become her constant companion and cheerleader. “Christine was a godsend,” Sheila said. “She was on top of everything. With all my care in one place, she was able to help me with my entire treatment plan and was always there when I needed information, direction or just a hug. She called to check on me between appointments and celebrated the good news with us.”

Sheila’s appreciation extends to the entire team. “I can’t imagine having to drive all over the Bay Area to see a surgeon, oncologist and radiation oncologist,” she said. “It was a hard and scary time, and having my whole team in one place made it easier for me and my husband. I tell people all the time that Washington will always be my hospital and having the UCSF – Washington Cancer Center here is a big part of that. This is the best of all possible worlds for cancer patients.” After receiving 30 radiation therapy treatments, Sheila was discharged from treatment. She will continue to be followed by Mikkelsen and Dr. Eftimie for the next four years.

Sheila joined the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Cancer Silicon Valley chapter to offer support to her “pink sisters.” To her great amazement and honor, she was invited to be part of the chapter’s NFL Crucial Catch event, pairing area cancer survivors with 49er players. Sheila created a painting that was printed onto a Levi’s jean jacket and on Oct. 1, walked the red carpet at the 49ers-Arizona Cardinals game.

“Being asked to be part of Crucial Catch was a special honor and blessing,” Sheila said. But working with Christine and the rest of the cancer center team was already a win. I know I can handle anything with that team on my side.”

For more information on cancer programs through the UCSF - Washington Cancer Center, visit For more information on Washington Women’s Center and its breast health programs, visit

Once a physician order is received, mammograms can be scheduled by calling 510.818.7410. Regular appointment schedule is Monday - Friday, 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. During the months of October, November and December, Saturday appointments (except Nov. 25, Dec. 23 and 30) are available from 7:45 a.m. to noon.