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There’s never a good time to have cancer, but for Kristen Randol, her diagnosis couldn’t have come at a worse time. Dealing with the unexpected loss of her brother, Kristen first ignored symptoms, blaming them on grief. Eventually she did seek treatment, first from her family doctor, then a proctologist who ordered a colonoscopy. It was just days before Christmas when she got the news that they found two tumors. But even then, she stayed positive because the doctor believed it was Stage I and the extent of treatment was a re-sectioning surgery.
Following surgery, she felt amazing and was anxious to get back home. She was dressed and waiting to check-out when Dr. Sadiq from Fort Wayne Medical Oncology came in with a new game plan. Post-surgery tests revealed that Kristen was facing Stage III colon rectal cancer that had spread to two of her lymph nodes, something that was very unusual for a person her age. And now this new doctor was telling her they had to start making plans for chemotherapy and radiation right away.
It was a lot to take in, but Kristen kept a positive outlook throughout the whole process. “I wanted my family to see that I could beat the scariest thing out there, cancer,” she says. It was important for her to stay strong and upbeat, which made Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology a perfect fit. She describes everyone as “phenomenal” and says that the way they treat patients makes a huge difference. “They make real connections here. Everyone was so positive and supportive. “
It took an entire year to complete Kristen’s treatment of radiation and chemotherapy. It was a tough road at times, but she says her journey made her stronger and more faithful. She gets a little choked up when talking about what Dr. Sadiq and Fort Wayne Medical Oncology means to her, “This place is in my heart. I built such a trust with the people here – they saved my life.”
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“Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy – but no one expects cancer to be one of them.”
Karen Schroeder was six months pregnant when she noticed a small knot in her breast. She casually mentioned it to her doctor, thinking it was simply part of her pregnancy. Her doctor was concerned, but decided to simply keep an eye on it until after the baby arrived. A post-pregnancy ultra sound was inconclusive, but three months later, the lump was still there. Even though Karen was breastfeeding, her doctor couldn’t wait any longer and ordered a biopsy.
When Karen was told she had stage three breast cancer, she was in disbelief. She was young and had an infant to care for, along with a four-year-old son and a school-aged step daughter. Once the shock wore off, Karen quickly shifted gears. “I drew strength from my kids. I knew I needed to be there for them.” So when she came to Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology, she was ready to start treatment. She explains, “It sounds strange, but I was excited to start chemo, I just knew I had to do this.”
Her oncologist was eager to get started, as well. She ordered three tests, one right after another, with visits the following day for each one so they wouldn’t waste any time. Once they knew exactly what they were facing, treatment began immediately.
“I connected with my doctor right away. She wasn’t much older than I was and also had small children, so I think she understood my state of mind,” says Karen. “She, and everyone else there, let me know that I wasn’t in this alone. They definitely shared my fighting spirit.”
After four months of chemotherapy, two surgeries and 36 radiation treatments, Karen was cancer-free. “I am grateful to Fort Wayne Medical Oncology for saving my life. I have a lot of life to live yet.”
— Darci Lewis
I am married to my husband Mike and have a son 27 and a daughter 14. My “cancer story” begins in 2017 when I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
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Breast Cancer Survivor
My name is Darci Lewis and I am 54 years old. I am married to my husband Mike and have a son (27) and a daughter (14). My “cancer story” begins in 2017 when I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Because it was very small and with consultation with my Oncologist and Surgeon, I opted for the lumpectomy and six (6) weeks of radiation. The surgery was a success with clear margins and lymph nodes. Radiation began shortly after and went rather well until week 4 and 5 when I was burning and in pain. It was the hardest part of my cancer journey thus far. Thank goodness for a long holiday weekend and some burn cream that helped me get through my last week of radiation. I had follow-up appointments every 3 months with my Medical Oncologist, Surgical Oncologist and Radiation Oncologist and received a mammogram every 6 months. All in all, things were going very well and my prognosis was looking good! Almost two (2) years later in April 2019, we were moving into a new house when I got really sick with what seemed like a really bad cold. As I was trying to recover, my symptoms got worse, including double and blurred vision, making it hard for me to see and even walk. I ended up in the ER and admitted to the hospital. Ater many tests, it was determined that I not only had the Rhinovirus but the Norovirus. It seems that my immune system was attacking my nervous system and had paralyzed my eyes, as I could not move them at all. I was finally diagnosed with Miller Fisher Syndrome (an autoimmune disorder) and treated with IVIG treatments for five (5) days. I was in the hospital for six (6) days and I was very weak and unable to walk without a walker or assistance. While recovering at home, I had to go to physical therapy and occupational therapy. They worked with building up my strength and balance, along with vision exercises, as my pupils were starting to move again. During this time at home, I noticed a fullness in my upper abdomen and questioned my family Dr. at a follow-up visit. She immediately ordered blood tests and a CT scan of my abdomen. My liver enzymes were very high, some 10 times higher than normal and my scan showed masses in my liver and was very compromised. I remember it being one of the worst phone calls I would receive as they thought it could be cancer in my liver and referred to my Oncologist. My Oncologist ordered many tests immediately, including a liver biopsy, PETscan and additional blood tests. Although, I knew the strong possibility that I could have cancer, talking to my Oncologist on the phone and confirming the news was devastating, as there were many masses and my prognosis was not good. The pathology report was not conclusive as to what kind of cancer it was, so it was sent to Cleveland Clinic for more testing. My Oncologist and her team suggested that we go to IU for another opinion. My husband and I were extremely impressed and relieved with this recommendation, as it brought us peace of mind. The visit to IU on Tuesday, July 2nd, with a “Liver” Oncologist was very rough, while the Dr. was very compassionate and intelligent, he concluded that it wasn’t Liver Cancer and thought it was Breast Cancer. This meant that I most likely had Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer. He was very concerned with how large my liver was and my eyes and skin were very yellow. He agreed with the treatment plan of my Oncologist, Dr. Quispe, as she wanted to treat me with chemotherapy for both liver and breast as we had to be aggressive. I remember driving home from Indy and calling Dr. Quispe to relay the information and was scheduled for chemo the following Monday, as she wanted to act quickly. After several weeks of testing and appointments, I had a plan and could finally focus on moving forward. I began receiving two (2) chemotherapies the following week on July 8th, even before my port could be installed. I seemed to handle the chemo fairly well, other than a headache but no nausea whatsoever. After a couple of treatments, my white cell counts and hemoglobin levels were low. I had to have two (2) transfusions and began getting injections to boost my cell counts. The shots seemed to work, but they did make my “big bones” hurt but for just for a day or two….so I really couldn’t complain. Throughout the summer there was a time or two that I had to skip a treatment because of low counts. But in September I had another PETscan which showed my tumors had shrunk by 20%. It was great news, as my abdomen wasn’t feeling full anymore and my skin and eyes were back to normal. By mid October, I wasn’t able to get treatments again, because of my low counts and it was very disheartening. I went five (5) weeks without a treatment but think that it was just too hard on my body getting the two (2) chemo drugs. In November I was able to get treatments again, along with my injections, which were daily for 3-5 days after chemo depending on my counts. At the end of November, I had another PETscan to see progress. While waiting for results, we went to IU again to meet with a Breast Oncologist. She agreed that it was indeed breast cancer and if my PETscan results showed improvement, to continue the same path but reducing the chemo to just one (1) drug for only breast cancer, which was the same recommendation as my Oncologist, Dr. Quispe. My scan did show more improvement and that my tumors were shrinking and dying. Since I’m just getting the one (1) chemo drug now, things seem to be going well and my white cell counts aren’t dropping as low. To date, I have received 17 chemotherapy treatments and will be getting another PETscan in February. I pray to be cancer free someday and am doing all I can nutritionally, eating “mainly” a plant based diet, eliminating sugar and eating lots of fruits and veggies, along with drinking lots of water. It’s been a rough journey but my family and I have been extremely blessed with wonderful people in our lives including family, friends, Doctors and their amazing nurses and staff, and an awesome community that have helped us along the way. Whether it has been making meals, cleaning, rides to appointments, praying hard, sending heart-felt cards, or putting an amazing “Do it for Darci” Benefit together on my behalf and helping us financially, my family and I cannot thank you enough. When you get cancer, your life changes in an instant, you are “forever changed”, but the people who step up and do all they can do to make your life easier is by far the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. I cannot thank you enough for all your love.
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Breast Cancer Survivor
A scratch-off lottery ticket—and a bargain with God—just might have saved Deena McClure’s life. “I knew I had a lump in my breast,” she says, “but I didn’t have insurance, so I ignored it. I never had a mammogram.” That is, until the day she dropped one of her daughters off at school. “I stopped at a gas station and bought a dollar scratch-off card. I knew I couldn’t ignore the lump any longer, so I bargained with God, ‘If I win, I’ll get it checked out.’”
Sure enough, Deena won a dollar with that ticket, but her real reward was immediate medical attention. Deena called her doctor and got in the same day. After feeling the lump, her medical team called an imaging center in Fort Wayne directly. Although it was a drive from her home in Wells County, Deena made the trip that day, thanks to a cancellation in the schedule. “They fit me in. It was literally four-and-a-half hours from the time my doctor confirmed the lump until I was getting a biopsy of not one lump, but two.” And 16 days later, Deena had a mastectomy. “It’s a good thing you came in,” said her surgeon. “You had three tumors.”
The cancer had spread to Deena’s lymph nodes, but 14 months of treatment, including chemotherapy, have given her new life—and new hope. That was in the fall of 2010. In April 2011, Deena’s newborn grandson came to live with her and her husband. His arrival gave her even more reason to fight.
She found an ally in Dr. Kollipara, her oncologist at FWMOH. “I remember my very first visit to Dr. Kollipara’s exam room. He walked in and had already taken the time to study my records. I felt as if he knew me. He knew all the details. And he called me by name.” It was that kind of care that marked Deena’s entire experience with FWMOH. “The ladies at the front office are my friends. The lab people are so compassionate and good at what they do. I feel so blessed.”
Even more remarkable to Deena was the fact that she received state-of-the-art care, regardless of her ability to pay. “No one ever mentioned that I didn’t have insurance, and no one ever asked me, ‘How are you going to pay for this?’” In fact, FWMOH found a solution that Deena didn’t even know existed. “The office team found a program through the State of Indiana for women fighting breast and cervical cancer. I qualified,” says Deena. “All of my treatments were covered.”
Today, Deena is a firm believer—and strong advocate—for preventative mammograms. As for her personal experience with cancer? Deena can only say this: “It’s not a journey I would have signed up for, but—thanks to FWMOH—it’s been a journey with no regrets.”
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Breast Cancer Survivor
While all cancer diagnosis are difficult to hear, sometimes they really do seem to come out of the blue. Lisa Witherspoon had no symptoms, no family history of cancer and very low risk factors. Yet there she was, sitting in a doctor’s office hearing her diagnosis for breast cancer after a routine exam.
A lumpectomy surgery was quickly arranged, but when it came time for follow-up cancer care, Lisa had no idea where to turn. “I was lucky enough to not have any experience with cancer, so I turned to my friends. One friend promised to find me the best doctor in town and that’s how I ended up at Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology.”
As soon as Lisa met her oncologist, she knew she was in the right place. “My doctor was excellent. She wasn’t only concerned with saving my life, but saving my quality of life, too,” Lisa explains. “This was all a new road for me. I wasn’t sure how things were supposed to feel. My doctor never dismissed me or told me that’s just the way things are now. She took my concerns seriously and found new medications for me with fewer side effects. She treated my whole body, not just my cancer.”
Now, ten years later, Lisa remains cancer-free. She continues to see her doctor on an annual basis and actually looks forward to the appointments. “I have to see her for the rest of my life – thank God I like her.” Lisa also now recommends FWMOH to others who may not know where to turn, “I tell people to check your options, but start with Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology – you won’t find anyone better.”
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Cancer of the Olfactory Nerves Survivor
Ron Nahrwold’s wife, Rose, describes his cancer journey with one word, “whirlwind.” Ron was an active and healthy 70 year-old when he began feeling nauseous and noticed a slight lump on his nose. Within a matter of weeks, the lump took over the majority of his face, causing him to live in constant pain. After many consultations and tests to rule out other problems, Ron was diagnosed with an extremely rare type of cancer. The technical name is malignant olfactory neuroblastoma, or cancer of the nasal cavity and skull base. With only roughly twenty known cases in the world, doctors were not familiar with how to treat this aggressive and deadly type of cancer.
A trip to a specialist in Indianapolis left Ron feeling hopeless. He was told he had less than two months to live unless he underwent a radical surgery that would remove much of his nose and leave him blind, followed by radiation treatment and chemotherapy. On the way home, Ron and Rose decided together that it would be better to let the disease run its course.
Ron continued to worsen, eventually losing his eyesight. He was very ill and in the hospital when he decided to go home and undergo Hospice care. It had only been a little over two months since Ron first noticed the tiny lump on his nose.
Then Ron got the phone call that changed everything. The radiologist assigned to Ron’s case did not know Ron had refused treatment, so he was calling to see why he missed his appointment. He spoke very honestly to Ron, arguing that they should at least try treatment. He explained that letting the cancer continue would not be an easy road. The cancer would invade Ron’s brain and make life terrible, for both Ron and Rose. “That’s what convinced me,” Ron says. “I didn’t want Rose to suffer.”
Ron said yes to treatment. His first appointment was with Dr. Sadiq at Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology. The doctor was shocked at the state Ron was in and the size of his tumor. Rather than go through usual channels, he insisted Ron start chemotherapy that day.
The strong treatment made Ron terribly ill, but also gave him almost immediate results. The tumor shrunk enough after one treatment for Ron to regain a tiny bit of his sight the next day. Everyone was amazed. Dr. Sadiq couldn’t believe how quickly Ron responded. More chemotherapy and radiation followed, but no surgery. Five months later, Ron had another MRI that showed his cancer was in remission.
Today, nearly three years later, Ron credits Dr. Sadiq with saving his life. He also gives a lot of credit to the nurses at the infusion center and to the radiologist for making that call. He’s also become a bit of a star at Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology, where they call him “Miracle Man.”
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Myeloid Leukemia Survivor
Leon Horn was surprised to hear that his white blood cell count was extremely low following a routine physical exam. His doctor sent him to Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology. A biopsy showed that he had acute myeloid leukemia, a fast-growing, aggressive type of cancer. “It’s a shock when you first hear the word ‘cancer,” Leon says.
His oncologist explained the options and didn’t mince words, explaining that normal treatments were only ten percent effective at best. “Hearing the truth from the doctor was important. I think his honesty helped me. I didn’t have to try to interpret what he was saying.” His doctor said he would do additional research and check with other oncologists.
Soon, Leon was being offered participation in a new clinical trial. As an independent practice, FWMOH is free to search for clinical trials that take place anywhere, and with decades of experience conducting clinical trials of their own, Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology is affiliated with hundreds of cancer treatment facilities across the country.
Leon agreed to be a part of a trial through Ohio State University’s cancer center. However, he was able to stay in town and received his treatment locally through FWMOH. This made it much easier for Leon, “My wife and daughters and whole family did everything to help me stay positive. They came to see me every day in the hospital.”
Leon recalls all the support he received from FWMOH, too, citing their up-to-date knowledge, research and professionalism. “In the hospital, there were a number of different doctors from Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology on call, so it wasn’t just my doctor that came to see me, they all did. The nurses were quite positive in treating me, too.”
Leon’s cancer has been in remission for three years. Today he says that he is more aware of how suddenly life can change: “You have to be extremely thankful. Having cancer makes you realize how quick life can go from you. So, you appreciate it more than before.”
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Inflammatory Breast Cancer Survivor
Heidi Wise’s journey started quickly. Seemingly overnight her right breast became hard, swollen and sore. She first consulted her OB-GYN, who then sent her to a surgeon. A biopsy revealed that Heidi had inflammatory breast cancer, an aggressive type of cancer that was not so well known at the time. Luckily, her surgeon sent her to Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology to see yet another doctor, which changed Heidi’s life.
“Cancer is the one word you never want to hear in your lifetime. When you do hear it, you want the best doctor,” she adds, explaining that her FWMOH oncologist’s “background and knowledge of chemotherapy drugs were excellent. He definitely chose the right drugs. We saw results with each chemotherapy session.” The drugs and their possible side effects were carefully explained in advance, too, Heidi notes, and her questions were always welcomed as she received help and support through the whole process.
Today, Heidi is happy to report that her cancer continues to be in remission with no evidence of the disease. She gives much of the credit to a positive attitude, her family’s support and, of course, her oncologist, “He’s been there every step of the way. He saved my life, and I have the utmost respect for him. His devotion to his patients, the compassion he shows and his positive nature exceed all expectations.”
Her praise extends to others, too. “The nurses at FWMOH were so sweet to me and so compassionate in their caregiving,” she says. “The first time I received chemotherapy, one of them sat with me the whole time, just talking to me and reassuring me.” Heidi enjoys seeing them when she returns for her annual checkups because “they know me and remember me.”
That may explain why she continues to choose FWMOH for her annual check-ups, despite the fact that she and her family moved to Indianapolis six years ago. She explains, “Cancer is the one word you never want to hear. But when you do, you want the best doctor – and that’s exactly what I found.”
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Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Survivor
There is growing evidence that popular supplements may intensify or weaken the effect of chemotherapy drugs and in some cases, may cause a toxic, even harmful reaction. It is important to not only report what medications you are taking, but to also including vitamins and supplements to avoid any possible interactions. Recent research shows that up to 50% of patients undergoing chemotherapy did not tell their doctor they were taking alternative therapies. Some believe it’s not important, while others are uncomfortable admitting they are pursuing alternative therapies. The underlying message is to stop taking herbal supplements while receiving chemotherapy until more is known about possible interactions. If you are interested in complementary approaches, please have a conversation with your physician about other approaches that may be beneficial for you.
- Fish oil: May induce bleeding with low platelets
- Ginger: May induce bleeding with low platelets
- Turmeric: Could decrease the effectiveness of chemotherapy — or increase the effects, with toxic results.
- Coenzyme Q10: Antioxidant properties may interfere with chemotherapy and radiation.
- Milk thistle: May affect estrogen levels, which could pose an issue for breast or ovarian cancer.
- Licorice: Also may affect estrogen levels.
- Green tea: Negates the benefits of certain chemotherapy.
- Reishi mushroom: May interfere with certain drugs or chemotherapy.
- Astragalus: May interfere with certain immunosuppressants.
- Acidophilus: May cause infections or other problems if taken during chemotherapy.
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Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivor
Suzanne Lenhart learned the hard way that cancer doesn’t fight fair. She was a firm believer in living an active and healthy lifestyle. She ate right and exercised regularly. Then, after her mother passed away, she became extremely fatigued. She thought this was part of grieving, “It was very confusing to me whether I was feeling fatigue and aching because I was grieving so deeply, or if my grieving seemed more extreme because my body was going through some kind of distress.”
Eventually, she received a shocking diagnosis, Stage 2b Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “Even the idea that I would develop cancer seemed impossible,” she says.
Nevertheless, Suzanne approached her treatment with hope, thanks in part to her relationship with her oncologist at Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology.
“I had great faith in my doctor,” says Suzanne. “He was cheerful and positive, and his spirit of kindness and compassion gave me a sense of safety.” Suzanne’s doctor encouraged her to assume an active role in her healing process, which became extremely important and powerful for her.
Suzanne took full advantage of many complimentary therapies that helped her traditional treatment go more smoothly. “During treatment,” says Suzanne, “I would relax, grab my earphones, and listen to a meditation tape, imagining the drugs moving into my body and traveling only to places where they were needed, that the cancer cells might be released.” Practicing a daily spiritual discipline, praying, doing yoga, taking vitamins and herbal supplements and attending support groups played an important role in her treatment and recovery.
Suzanne’s oncologist was not only aware of her alternative approaches, he supported it. This made a tremendous difference for Suzanne. She describes her relationship with her doctor as one of the single-most important aspects of her healing journey. In fact, Suzanne’s cancer experience turned out to be a positive and life-changing encounter. “I decided early on to approach the cancer just as I would an adventure—with curiosity, enthusiasm, excitement, gratitude, and anticipation,” says Suzanne.
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