“I want to make sure people know that this treatment is out there,” says Kelly Lutz.
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“In November 2017, I got diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that originates in the lymph system,” says Kelly Lutz, 58, of Zelienople.

“I had it not only in my lymph nodes but also in my central nervous system. So, by December, they started me on heavy doses of chemotherapy. I was in Shadyside Hospital six times, each time for 10 days — and still go once a month for maintenance treatment for a year.

“Soon I developed what they call oral mucositis,” continues Ms. Lutz, the busy wife of a retired dairy farmer, mother of “three lovely daughters,” and a grandmother of six.

“I had huge blisters in my mouth and on my tongue — so bad that I couldn’t talk or eat. I couldn’t even lie down without pain. It was excruciating.

“Then Ashley Layton, my clinician, came in with this little machine and said, ‘Let’s try this low-level laser therapy [LLLT].’ ”

Ashley Layton, BSN, RN, OCN®, who gave a presentation on LLLT at the 2018 Annual Congress of the Oncology Nursing Society in Washington, D.C., explains

that “laser therapy, or photobiomodulation, has been used for many years to lessen the aches of sports injuries, arthritic joints, and back and neck pain. It’s inexpensive, well-tolerated, and has been standard treatment in the U.K. to prevent the pain and inflammation of oral mucositis.”

Treatment involves applying a red laser beam to a patient’s cheeks, tongue, and roof of the mouth two or three times a week. Each treatment takes less than ten minutes.

“Within 24 hours, I found a huge difference”

Back in 2014, seeing how many patients were afflicted by oral mucositis, Annette Quinn, RN, MSN, program manager of Radiation Oncology at UPMC Shadyside, applied for and received a grant from the Shadyside Hospital Foundation to purchase an LLLT delivery system. Before long, the Foundation’s Grant Committee members, impressed by its success in helping patients, approved three additional systems.

“Within 24 hours, I found a huge difference,” Ms. Lutz recalls. “After my third treatment, I could talk and I could eat. It’s phenomenal — it really is.”

Ms. Lutz was immediately put on the schedule for LLLT each time she returned for her treatments. “I was so overjoyed once they started doing me with the light therapy every time I went in. It really kept the mouth sores at bay. I still developed them, but because the clinicians stayed on top of them, they never got as severe as that first time.

“Nobody wants to have cancer,” she says. “But if I had to have it, I have to say that UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Shadyside Hospital have been a blessing to me. All the doctors, the nurses, and the people who brought the food, even the people who cleaned my room, were phenomenal.

They really care about the patients. The clinicians did hand and foot massages. You could have a yoga instructor come in, and he would work with you. I just love them all.

“God is good,” Ms. Lutz adds. “Right now I’m cancer- free, and I feel very blessed.”

In addition to helping care for her parents, she and her husband are looking forward to some travel in their retirement — but she also is exploring ways to raise funds to help buy more LLLT machines, which cost $24,000 each.

“I want to make sure people know that this treatment is out there.”

Discover how you can help patients like Kelly Lutz. Please call or email Louise Brown, executive director, Shadyside Hospital Foundation, 412-623-6600 or brownlr@upmc.edu.