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Health: Compassionate care and a boost of self confidence


By Kim Hasty

Photography by Tony Wooten

When Erin Champion contemplated having the fine lines on her forehead injected in a large room filled with interested onlookers recently, she didn’t hesitate.
“I was excited,” she said. “It hurt less than a brow wax.”

Cape Fear Valley Health plastic surgeon Dr. Leif Nordberg, M.D, performed the injection during Cape Fear Valley Health Presents CityView’s Ladies’ Night Out at The Carolina Barn at McCormick Farms. He said medical aesthetic treatments such as Botox and fillers can be fulfilling and can provide a boost of self-confidence for patients. Perhaps no one deserved such a treat more than Erin Champion.

A breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed six years ago when she was 29 weeks pregnant with her third child, Champion now helps other women cope with breast cancer. She’s Cape Fear Valley Health’s Breast Patient Navigator, accompanying women through every step of a daunting diagnosis and subsequent treatment. She’s a convincing and inspiring mentor, having gone through a bilateral mastectomy herself and subsequent chemotherapy two weeks after childbirth.

“I didn’t understand at the time that there could be a purpose to all the pain I was enduring,” said Champion, 40. “I’m just awestruck that my own experience can give hope to someone else. My number one prayer is that I help someone every day and never hurt the process.” Champion, whose academic background is in education and social work, was serving as a Bible study leader and caring for her two older children when she noticed a lump in her breast six years ago. It turned out that she had an aggressive form of breast cancer. That’s when she first met breast cancer surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Sawyer, who was working at Womack Army Medical Center at the time. Sawyer, an Army veteran who is now a breast oncology surgeon at Cape Fear Valley’s Breast Center, performed Champion’s surgery in about two hours, helping to assure as little time under anesthesia as possible for Champion and thus the health of baby Elizabeth Grace, who was born two weeks later.

“I can’t imagine a better place to get treatment than here locally,” Champion said. “Dr. Sawyer didn’t sugarcoat anything. But I felt safe with her.”

Champion now works closely alongside Sawyer and Nordberg, who divides his comprehensive plastic surgery practice between his two specialties: breast reconstruction and medical aesthetics. He can perform a facelift on one day of the week and then perform breast reconstruction surgery the next.

“That’s the type of practice I want to have,” he said. He has a pleasant bedside manner that was on display at Ladies’ Night Out as he injected Champion with Botox and also injected a lip filler on another pre-screened patient, Keri Terry. Terry works as practice administrator for ambulatory surgical services at Cape Fear Valley. Sawyer served as emcee for the procedures, offering information about each step and answering questions from the many intrigued attendees. “This is his passion,” Terry said. “To make women and men feel good and to feel good about themselves.”

Champion agreed. “Dr. Nordberg is so compassionate,” she said. “He was kind and gentle … and now I have fewer wrinkles.”