A woman who alleges a Lawndale oncologist's 2013 misdiagnosis left her mistakenly believing for two years that she had stage 4 breast cancer testified Tuesday that the physician promised to save her life.
"She wanted to help me so I wouldn't die," 38-year-old Briana Owens of Long Beach told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing trial of her malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Olukemi Wallace. "She said we would need to move really, really fast."
Owens said Wallace arranged for her to have a device placed in her chest so she could receive chemotherapy.
But after believing for two years that she had breast cancer and could die within months, if not days, Owens changed doctors in 2015 and they told her she instead had rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, an inflammatory autoimmune disease, according to the plaintiff.
Wallace has denied any wrongdoing. In their court papers, the doctors' lawyers state that Owens' allegations "have no merit whatsover."
In her testimony, Owens said she has dyslexia so severe that her mother had to fill out her medical forms. She said she first learned she might have breast cancer during visits to other medical clinics, where she had gone after suffering from inflamed breast tissue and other problems. She said she was advised to see an oncologist and that she went to Wallace at the recommendation of her mother, with whom she lived at the time at a Hawthorne home near Wallace's office.
Owens said she had a positive first impression of Wallace.
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"I thought she was nice," Owens said. "Yeah, I liked her."
She said that during an ensuing examination, the doctor gave her the first inclination there might be a problem when her chest seemed warm to the touch.
"She started shaking her head and frowning," Owens said. "She said, 'I can see it, I can feel it.'"
The doctor told her she had stage 4 breast cancer and that there likely would be side effects from future treatment, Owens said.
"She told me I was probably going to lose my hair and my breasts," Owens testified.
Asked by one of her attorneys, Alena Klimianok, how she felt after receiving the diagnosis from Wallace, Owens replied, "I felt like there was no hope."
But Wallace reassured her that all was not lost, Owens said.
"She told me she would save my life," the plaintiff said.
When Owens changed physicians and began going to Providence St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, she was quickly told she never had cancer and started receiving the proper treatment for her medical issues, according to her court papers. The device used to give Owens chemotherapy was surgically removed, according to the suit.