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Sunshine Story || Sunshine Stands by Me

My name is Melissa Q and I am the Lab Coordinator at Sunshine Community Health Center. This is my story of how my provider stood by me and helped me figure out that I had cancer.


I went in to see my provider of choice, Shaina Ahles, and to let her know that I had been having lower back pain. During my appointment, she requested a urinary analysis and some blood work. My labs came back abnormal. She recommended some follow-up steps and imaging to see what was going on.


Shaina knew something was very wrong with me and referred me to urology in Wasilla. Unfortunately, I had to wait an entire month because lower back pain and blood found in urine were common symptoms seen in their practice and their schedules were full. I wasn't very happy waiting a full month, knowing I had abnormal labs, but I waited patiently.


Finally, I was able to get my appointment and I left the doctor's office in tears. The doctor attributed my diagnosis to my being overweight and having diabetes. I went back to Shaina and she knew I was upset. She said she would work with me to find out what was causing all of the problems. She ordered a CT scan to see if there was anything else abnormal and made sure it was done right away this time.


The CT scan showed something abnormal in my kidneys, which prompted Shaina to order a different scan on that same day. I drove to Eagle River for yet another scan in search of answers. Shaina was on vacation when my results came back from the additional scans and Curtis Harvie was covering her patient's needs. He called me to inform me of the results and offered understanding and support after sharing the dreadful news that I had cancer. I took a photo of myself that day to remember that this was my "brave face" and that I needed it to get through.



I remember being told by three different doctors that they were puzzled as to how my care team was able to find my kidney cancer and that most diagnoses don't show up in patients until later stages of life. I was very lucky that we found it because by this time I was already in stage 2. As soon as Shaina returned, she worked with my friends and coworkers Shyloh Snowberger and Sara Heller, and helped me fill out paperwork. This allowed me to take some time off work in support of my care plan: to evict cancer! Before I knew it was getting prompt care and had 3 surgeries back to back. Shyloh knew I was bound and determined to keep my job so I worked at home and went into the office as my body and mind allowed.


I share this story so our community members can know and trust Sunshine Community Health Center, to share what a wonderful provider Shaina Ahles is, and to shout out to the great team at our Willow Clinic that truly treated me like family. I also want to thank my own family for standing by my side as well.


I am proud to say that as I share this story, I am cancer-free. I am grateful to be here. Melissa Quintanilla, CCMA

Lab Coordinator

Sunshine Community Health Center

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