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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.
— James Lipetri
We are so thankful for our patients and their strength. We are so humbled to be able to share James’ story. James, thank you for your inspirational message and we are so glad we were able to be there with you.
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Gastrointestinal Cancer Survivor
I thought my life was an incredible journey until five years ago. My journey until this point has been wonderful and then took an amazing detour. Very unexpected turn of events and a ride of my life. I cannot begin to tell you how blessed these last several years have been. The tremendous support from my family, my friends, my co-workers and many people whom I have never met. The care I have been given in since arriving on the Lutheran Hospital campus. A group of talented and caring people who has assisted with my survival. I am Blessed!
I am a cancer survivor, NO, I am Thriving with cancer! One day in April of 2016 I started to feel a little under the weather. By the second day the symptoms of discomfort in my side and the color change of my skin became more prevalent. My family doctor was on vacation and would return the following week. I would wait since the discomfort was manageable. The third day the I was more severe with pain and discomfort. The color change of my skin was continued to deepen in color to the point I had turned yellow. Even my eyes had become yellow. I called the doctor’s office since it was apparent, I could not wait until my family doctor’s return. I met with the nurse practitioner and she saw me for a brief moment and told me she was sending me to the ER. I asked when and she said immediately. Well I maybe more ill than I thought.
I arrived in the ER Hospital of Marion Indiana around 1:30 pm. After a very long day, three different scans and a battery of tests along with blood work I was beginning to think I maybe I am ill. I remember the last scan which occurred around 10:00 pm in the evening. Tired and exhausted I was ready to learn what was going on with my condition. I was supported by my wife Margo, my son Mathew and my daughter in-law Tiffany. I remember the doctor coming into the ER cubical and standing next to my side. Those ER gurneys are not very comfortable to lay on for an extended period of time. I was ready to get up and move on at this point. The ER doctor proceeded to explain to us what they thought was ailing me. This was the point he said he thinks I have cancer. It is what he said next that made me realize I was in trouble. The doctor said in one sentence, I think you have cancer; however, we cannot treat you here. However! Oh, the word I will never forget those words. I was suspended in time focusing on the word however. I could hear the doctor continuing to speak, but time had stopped. I could not tell you what the doctor had said. Everything had stopped. Stopped on the word However! I thought oh crap! I really am in trouble. The doctor said he recommend me to be transferred to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne. When everything was being arranged, I laid there thinking about the day’s events. My family by my side with concerned looks offering comfort by just being with me. I was tired to the point of exhaustion. The word However clinging to my thoughts. However, we cannot treat you here. Oh Lord I am in trouble. I did not share with Margo and with anyone about my prayer as I waited to be transferred. (Oh, Lord my God. I have lived a good life. You had blessed me with a wonderful wife. I am blessed with two marvelous boys who have granted me with two special daughter in-laws. I am blessed! I have dear friends in many states and around the world. I am laying here wondering if I will survive the week end. Dear Lord if these are my last days on earth, then I am ready. I know where I am going and I am ready. I cannot expect more than what you have already given me. I have a wonderful family; you have granted me success. I had the opportunity to touch young people minds, hearts, and hone their skills. Lord if this is your calling for me, I am ready. If you find favor in me, I would like to request you extend my life a little longer. I am at your disposal. Use me as you see fit. But you need to be direct and to the point. I do not want to miss your calling. I would like to live long enough to meet my first grandchild, to witness to dear friends’ marriage. This is my prayer.
I was transferred to Fort Wayne Lutheran Hospital. I arrived around 1:30 am and admitted into the intensive care unit. A doctor came in and gave me a briefing on what to expect. I have some complications which prevented me have having surgery for the cancer. The medical staff had to rectify these complications before I could handle the cancer surgery. As the medical staff treated my complications my surgeon Dr. Agee addressed me and my wife on his cancer procedure. The complications were corrected and Dr. Agee proceed with the Whipple surgical procedure. You may say this is where my amazing story begins. I do have to say I may be a little stubborn and hard headed which leads to become in trouble with Margo and the medical staff, (at times 😉). The surgery was complete and I was taken to my room. Dr. Agee and his wonderful staff, Nikki and Christy to check on my recovery. Dr. Agee took one look at the room and said no patient of mine will be recovering in a closet. Then out the door they went. Well I look over my room and I was pleased. I do not have to share the space with another person. I have a window, sunlight, trees, its not like I am planning to stay long, a couple of days! My nurse came back in and told me they have another room for me. The only difficulty I would have to walk across the hallway. I said Okay, heck I have plenty of Morphine, I was not going to feel a thing. I was wrong ☹. I did feel pain and it was slow going. The room was much larger and the had a better view. It was a good call on Dr. Agee for a larger room. I was in the room for a longer period of time that I was willing to admit. This also gave Margo more room as she spent a good deal of time with me. This gesture a little attention to detail made feel important and special. A boost for my moral, warm fuzzies!
Dr. Agee my surgeon came back to my bedside, gave us and update to my condition and what to expect in the next couple of days. I can share with you so many stories of my recovery on my amazing journey, but I am afraid the length would be too long. Maybe another time to share. I will share one with you which is an example of my stubbornness and lack of patience. This store starts with my first sponge bath in bed. Well totally uncomfortable also I am not helpless. I maybe laid up and slow moving, but I am capable of taking care of myself. I do not need someone to bath me. So, the next day my nurse took care of me so I would be able to bath myself. She even brought a special hair cover which was a water-less hair cleaning for my head. Nice. I was able to bath myself with a little discomfort and pain but I was able to take of myself. Feeling a little proud of my accomplishment until I came to brush mt teeth. I did not think this process through completely. When I can to spit out the tooth paste and problem presented itself. You see, I could not bend over. I had almost twenty stables down my belly. The sink was a little farther away than I could spit. Oh, I tried but the toothpaste all went down the front of me. I had to ask the nurse for a clean smock. I learned from my experience. The next day I took the puke (spit) tray with me. So, I would spit into the tray and then rinse. Success! I may be dumb, but not stupid. Slow maybe!
So, many stories to tell, little time to share. I was improving very quickly. Becoming stronger and stronger, but still fought the pain. Pain I never had experienced before. I continued to complete my daily exercise and walk’s. I was determined to leave as soon as possible. The third day I met my physical therapists. Well this experience did not go well. We came to terms and moved on. Maybe a store for later.
Recovery continued on a fast pace. Following all my instruction, (well most of the instruction), continue with my daily walks and exercises helped me to recover quickly. I was able to go home within a week. Care and exercise continue with my daily activities propel me to achieve my goal to return to work. I was able to return to work within 4 weeks. I was only able to work 4 hours and day with major restriction. Believe when I tell you I have my family and staff keeping an eye on my so that I would over excerpt myself. I could not get away with anything especially when I was caught driving myself to Hobby Lobby after being home for three days. I need supplies and was tired of being in the house. More to tell but I am still recovering for the lashing I received from everyone. Lesson learned.
I was able to return to my somewhat a regular routine by God’s Mercy and Blessings. My journey brought me to an institution (Lutheran) with an incredible and talent group of people. I keep in good spirits and in prayer. The reason I had recovered so well is because of the care of the staff of Lutheran Hospital and Oncology team. The tremendous support and prayers from my family, friends, co-workers, the IWU community and support from people all over the work who knew some who knows me. Amazed and Blessed. God is Good. I have questions, why me! Why cancer! I was 53 years of age when cancer struck.
Cancer does not discriminate; it will attack anyone at any time. I could be depressed and feel sorry for myself, or I can take this opportunity to make a difference. Remember I had made a commitment to God. Use me according to your plan. I have an obligation to my Lord I made in the ER at Marion General. I am going to be His witness with a good attitude and how I carry myself. My actions and attitude will define who I belong to. I have been given more time to live. I need to make the best of my situation. How? I was not and still not sure. I just take Gods open door and opportunity as they presented. I must be making a difference because I had been asked to be part of a mentoring program when a patient would like to have a discussion with someone who had been though the procedure. We can discuss all their questions and my experience from a patient point a view. I am told it has been helpful. I also have the opportunity to support family member and co-work with cancer in their family or their own lives. Support, Aids in how we are able to deal with this difficulty. Support we are not alone in our journey. I will share with you I suffer from depression at times, anxiety and frustrations. I do struggle from time to time with my journey and condition. There are times when tears fill my eyes. What keeps me focused is my commitment to my Lord, my support from Margo and my friends. I would not be able to handle the last five years on my own. I am encouraged knowing I have been an inspiration and encouragement to others. I may not know who has been affected, it’s not for me to know. Just being told I have been a blessing to other is enough. This is what has been assigned to me in this stage of my life.
I need to share the tremendous care I have received from Dr. Babu and his team. I understand these doctors meet Friday to discuss their patience’s and work together to achieve the best plan for us. Kudos to the Lutheran team. Dr. Babu and Dr. Agee has taken their time with Margo and myself to make sure we have an understanding what procedure and to answer our questions. These two had take the time to make sure we understood, they went to even draw out the procedure and diagram of what is being accomplished.
I am approaching my five-year anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer. Almost four years of treatment. I do have hope this team may find a cure for my cancer, but in reality, my understanding is to control and maintain my condition. Great job. Still thriving. I had to slow down with my life. I had taken a step back with employment. I am not work 50 to 60 hours and week; I step back to about 30 hours a week. Still continue with my daily exercise routine. Oh, did I mention I split wood by hand once in a while to keep my fire place stocked. I only able to split for about 30 minutes, but I am still able to accomplish this task. I may only split every other month. I help me to keep fit, family not over joyed with my routine. Keep my mind off of my condition. I learned how much I can handle.
Find your joy, find your why! Allow others in your life for support. Share and accept support. You are not alone! Everyday is a good day; just some days are better than others!
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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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