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Cancer Archive

June 25th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Fiction Becomes Reality: Surviving Metastatic Appendiceal Cancer

By Susana Shephard

"There's something weird going on," explained the surgeon in Las Vegas, Nevada. For retired hotel executive Charles Livingston, these words signaled the start of a long journey, which began following an emergency appendectomy. He had experienced abdominal symptoms and received various diagnoses before being rushed to the operating room for a burst appendix.

Following surgery, Charles received devastating news -- he had metastatic appendiceal cancer. His local oncologist referred him to Mayo Clinic in Arizona where he met with Nabil Wasif, M.D., a surgeon, and John Camoriano, M.D., an oncologist. Charles says he was immediately struck by the genuine concern both physicians had for him as a human being.

Working together as a cancer care team, the physicians recommended a debulking surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). Charles agreed to undergo the extensive surgery and HIPEC treatment to save his life.

It's here that fiction becomes reality. Charles says that just before his cancer diagnosis, he had finished writing his novel, Gabriel's Creek. The story revolves around a man who faces learning he is terminally ill. Charles says he had never imagined that his future would hold the same challenges as the main character. He admits that there were few edits to the novel, so perhaps he was unknowingly preparing himself for what lay ahead, he says.

Watch the video below as Charles shares his story.


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June 20th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Patient with “Double Trouble” Diagnosis Finds Answers at Mayo Clinic

By Paul Scotti

67-year-old Kendall Schwindt of Sun City, Florida, a retiree who spent 26 years with Walmart and who has remained active playing golf and riding his motorcycle.

Being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a serious blood cancer, is difficult enough to accept. But being told that you also have a rare hematologic condition called amyloidosis — a disorder that could prevent you from receiving the bone marrow transplant necessary to combat your myeloma — could put anyone’s strength to the test.

Such was the case for 67-year-old Kendall Schwindt of Sun City, Florida, a retiree who spent 26 years with Walmart and who has remained active playing golf and riding his motorcycle. After experiencing a sudden illness in March 2013 while visiting his son, Schwindt knew something wasn’t right. After visiting his family doctor, he was told he had a very high creatinine level in his blood and was sent to a local nephrologist for a kidney biopsy.

His diagnosis — multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in bone marrow. Plasma cells normally make proteins called antibodies to help the body fight infections. But that wasn’t only devastating news Schwindt would receive. Read the rest of this entry »

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June 4th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Untangling a complex medical challenge

By Hoyt Finnamore

Amy Supergan with family members in Sienna, Italy.Amy Supergan has battled a host of difficult and painful disorders. Now she's found a way back to enjoying her life and her family.

In the summer of 2013, Amy Supergan took a trip to Italy. That may not sound extraordinary, but there was a time when being able to travel and enjoy a vacation with her family seemed like an impossible goal.

Amy faces a range of challenging medical problems, but at the top of that list is pain so debilitating she was forced to quit her career and give up an active lifestyle. But through the care she has received at Mayo Clinic and her participation in an innovative clinical research trial, Amy has found a renewed ability to manage her pain, and enjoy friends and family when she is able.

"Although I may never ski again or be back at work, with the help of all of my doctors at Mayo, I am now able to live independently with some assistance," she says. "I have found happiness in being more relaxed and appreciating some of the smaller things in life. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on life as I did before." Read the rest of this entry »

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June 1st, 2014 · Leave a Comment

What makes a cancer survivor?

By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss

Cindy Weiss in a photo from 2005, during her initial treatment for ovarian cancer.

Cindy Weiss in a photo from 2005, during her initial treatment for ovarian cancer.

June 1 is designated National Cancer Survivor Day – a time to celebrate those living with cancer. It seems ironic, though, for one day to be called out as cancer survivor’s day. Let's be honest – once you receive a diagnosis of cancer, regardless of what kind, every day is essentially survivor’s day.

As a two-time ovarian cancer patient, I know this. But the word "survivor" brings some dilemma. Exactly who is a survivor? What defines a survivor? Are you a survivor after you've completed a six-month chemo regime? Finished weeks of radiation? Lived for x-number of years cancer-free? The question or definition of a survivor is something I and others have grappled with for years.

“Survivor” is a strong and powerful word. According to one definition, a survivor is one “who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.” Sounds like every cancer patient I've ever known. But it’s also a label I’d apply to family members and friends. It takes a village to raise a child, they say. So, too, I believe to fight cancer. By that definition, aren't we all survivors?

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May 16th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Joyous Victory: Lung Cancer Survivor Finds Her Niche, Gives Back to Help Others

By Hoyt Finnamore

Written by Eunice Nishimura

Eunice Nishimura at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.My journey started innocently enough as a neck strain I received while playing with my daughter’s golden retriever in October 2010. As the year ended, the discomfort had increased, and I sought out my physician in January 2011. He set up appointments for MRI and MRA exams. Once done, I quickly ended up at a level I Trauma Center, where I was diagnosed with a tumor on my C3 spine. The full diagnosis was stage IV non-small cell lung cancer with spine and lymph node metastases. The lung tumor was inoperable due to its proximity to the pulmonary aorta. Within 48 hours, the lymph node was removed, and I began radiation on the spine tumor, which lasted 3 weeks.

During that period, a cousin in Southern California suggested I contact Mayo Clinic in Arizona for a second opinion and gave me the name of Dr. Helen Ross.  I had my consultation with Dr. Ross on Feb. 7.

From our first meeting with Dr. Ross, both my husband and I developed a trust and respect for her that continues to this day. Dr. Ross presents a forthright, open and considered respect for me not only as a patient but also an individual. She does not sugarcoat her evaluations. She always questions what has been done in the past and then takes it one step further.  Read the rest of this entry »

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May 6th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Immunotherapy Puts the Brakes on Cancer for Melanoma Patient

By Paul Scotti

Mayo Clinic in Florida oncologist Richard Joseph, M.D. with Mayo Clinic patient James Donaghy.

Mayo Clinic in Florida oncologist Richard Joseph, M.D., with Mayo Clinic patient James Donaghy.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. And for those patients whose disease has spread beyond its origination site, most treatment options have offered only modest success in controlling the disease. So when James Donaghy of Huntersville, North Carolina, entered a clinical trial at Mayo Clinic in Florida testing the effectiveness of an experimental immunotherapy drug called MK-3475, he figured he had nothing to lose after several other chemotherapy treatment options failed to control his melanoma.

The 67-year old, Brooklyn-born Donaghy had his first experience with melanoma in 1994, when he found a mole on his back. As a phone company lineman for 36 years who worked outdoors on a daily basis, he figured his prolonged exposure to the sun may have put him at high risk for skin cancer. The mole was eventually diagnosed as melanoma and removed by a plastic surgeon. With regular monitoring by his doctor, all was well for many years, until he found another mole in 2011, this time on his neck, which turned out to be a recurrence of his melanoma.

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March 7th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Knocking “Care Coordination” Out of the Park

By Mayo Clinic

Barry BloomWritten by Barry M. Bloom

When I arrived at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., that September day almost five years ago, my care for colon cancer was fractured and really a mess. I had suffered through a second bout of the disease, when the cancer jumped from the colon to the lung. After surgery to bisect the upper lobe of the left lung, I had just embarked on a six-month program of chemotherapy.

A local hospital had bungled the pathology from the original colon surgery in February 2008, discovered only when I went to a facility in Texas for a second opinion. As it turned out, at the time of the original colon resection, a trace of cancer was evident in a lymph node, doctors there discovered. Had my oncologist at the time possessed that information, he would have immediately placed me on a course of chemo. He didn't, and suddenly I had become a Stage IV cancer patient for the worst of reasons: medical error.

Just as bad, the surgeon who performed the original colon surgery did such a poor job sewing up my abdomen that it created an incision hernia. When she fixed the hernia, she told me she had inserted some mesh to pull the area together. That turned out to be false. The hernia surgery had to performed again. This time she demurred and sent me to another surgeon, who did the job properly.

No apology from the doctor or the local hospital has ever been forthcoming.

In the late summer of 2009, the second opinion confirming the spot on my lung, the biopsy, the surgery itself, and my first chemo sessions were reminded me of the times I was given flu shots in the pharmacy of a Safeway. My anxiety was at an untenable level, and as now the CEO of my own health care, I had learned an important lesson: the more doctors, clinics and hospitals involved without access to the same computer records, the greater chance for something to go wrong.

That's when Mayo Clinic became involved. Read the rest of this entry »

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February 24th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Trust Your ‘Gut’ When Experiencing Possible Signs of Colorectal Cancer

By Mayo Clinic

Grace De La Rosa, with guitar.

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Most people think that colorectal cancer is just an old man's disease, perhaps because current medical guidelines recommend regular screening begin at the age of 50. Truth is, this disease doesn't discriminate in age, gender or race.

Grace De La Rosa was 38 when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon Cancer in 2005.  She has no family history of any type of cancer. She's married to a veteran Navy pilot and is a mother of two children, who were 14 and 3 at the time. She was a swimwear model, fitness instructor and fitness competitor. She worked out religiously and ate healthy foods. So that's when De La Rosa was shocked to hear the words, "You have cancer."

She had surgery to remove the golf ball-sized tumor from her colon and received chemotherapy for three consecutive days, every other week, for six months.

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February 21st, 2014 · Leave a Comment

Her Relay: Overcoming a Childhood Tumor to Being An Advocate for Life

By Mayo Clinic

Written by Erin Mobley, Adult BMT Data Specialist at Mayo Clinic in Florida

Erin Mobley at the age of 7 in 1993.

Erin Mobley at the age of 7 in 1993 on News Year's Eve (left) and Easter Sunday (right).

I wanted to go skiing for my seventh birthday, but instead I celebrated in the hospital with family and friends, and a pediatric oncologist. 

Two months earlier, in September 1993, on my first day of first grade, I had gotten sick and had a large amount of blood in my urine. I remember my mom picking me up early from school and taking me to the pediatrician, who promptly sent us to the hospital. Scans revealed a tumor about the size golf ball in my bladder. Using the latest technology available, doctors biopsied the tumor and determined it to be rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft-tissue sarcoma.

I had surgery the next day and soon began chemotherapy as an inpatient, using a treatment protocol established by what is now the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), an international organization devoted to childhood and adolescent cancer research. The chemotherapy treatment regimen required me to spend every other week in the hospital.

My wish to ski came true in March 1994 thanks to Dreams Come True, a local organization that helps children fighting life-threatening diseases fulfill their dreams. My family and I traveled to Winter Park, Co., where we skied, rode snowmobiles, went tubing and built snowmen! The real joy for me was being able to take a break from treatment and just be a kid. Of course, it gave my parents a vacation, too!

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January 30th, 2014 · Leave a Comment

For One Couple, Expert Neurology Care Makes All the Difference

By Mayo Clinic

Barbara and Jim Smith

Mayo Clinic patients Barbara and Jim Smith

In one brief statement, Barbara Smith can sum up the impact that the staff in the Department of Neurology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona had on her and her husband as they faced several difficult and frightening medical problems: "They are our life-changing heroes." 

For 40 years, seizures were just part of life for Barbara. Dealing with them since she was a teen, she always assumed they were caused by epilepsy. But in 2007, the seizures became more frequent and more severe. At the same time, Barbara began having other problems, too. She developed a stutter and often had headaches. Walking became more difficult, and she had unexplained weight loss.

Barbara went to several neurologists. No one could provide her with answers. In desperation on a Friday evening, Barbara's husband, Jim, called Mayo Clinic to see if they could get an appointment. "That phone call changed my life," says Barbara.

Within a week, the couple arrived at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where Barbara underwent two weeks of evaluation, including five days of observation in the hospital's epilepsy monitoring unit. Part of that evaluation involved using unique imaging technology known as SISCOM, or subtraction ictal SPECT coregistered to MRI. Pioneered at Mayo Clinic, SISCOM is particularly useful in pinpointing areas of the brain where seizures occur. Read the rest of this entry »

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