A BEACH VACATION is meant to be a soothing trip.
In 2016, I visited Hawaii with my husband and son. We hiked through the gorgeous scenery, snorkeled within the crystal-clear water and spent precious quality time together.
But once I returned home, I didn’t feel rested. I had just spent several days in one among the world’s most tranquil locations, and rather than recharged, I felt drained and lethargic.
As an occupational therapist, I knew something was off, but I didn’t expect to be told that my recent vacation could be my last.
Days after my trip, I noticed my skin starting to yellow. I immediately visited a doctor, where i used to be diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a cancer that forms within the bile ducts, tubes that connect the gallbladder, liver and little intestine.
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It wasn’t just a cancer diagnosis. At only 52 years old, my oncologist told me that it had been time to hunt hospice care that might “make me comfortable.” This disease, i used to be told, was too advanced to treat.
The bile-duct cancer had spread thus far that surgery was off the table. Standard chemotherapy treatments didn’t stop the expansion and came with toxic side effects. But I wasn’t curious about being made “comfortable.” I wanted to fight this disease.
As I weighed my options with my family, I settled on the foremost important decision I’ve ever made: I sought a second opinion.
I wanted an oncologist who would be aggressive about giving me my best shot against this cancer. And at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, I found what i used to be trying to find .
At the OSUCCC – James, i used to be connected with Dr. Sameek Roychowdhury, a member of the Translational Therapeutics Program who focuses on precision cancer medicine, a treatment approach that uses genomics to spot specific, targeted therapies for patients.
Dr. Roychowdhury didn’t suggest I roll over within the face of the steep odds. Instead, he used genomic testing to seek out molecular targets in my cancer that might make me a candidate for targeted therapy, a treatment that focuses on specific cancer-causing mutations.
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With surgery and chemotherapy ruled out, participating during this treatment represented the battle I desperately sought.
The OSUCCC – James precision cancer medicine discovered that I had a FGFR (fibroblast protein receptors) fusion mutation, which is difficult to detect with most genomic tests. Fortunately, Dr. Roychowdhury’s lab developed a specialized test called OSU SpARK Fuse meant to detect the mutation.
Once the FGFR mutation decided , i used to be told that two different trial therapies exist to focus on the mutations. because of that trial, I’m equipped with pills called infigratinib, a weapon I can use in my fight. My cancer might not be “cured,” but I’m still here two years later, and my cancer is not any longer advancing.
The initial diagnosis dramatically changed my life, but the standard of that life has drastically improved due to the targeted therapy I found through Dr. Roychowdhury’s second opinion. i have been ready to spend more quality time with the people i really like , and i am fighting the disease that was once a death sentence.
My symptoms have improved. And although i’ll never be freed from this cancer, I’m ready to consider it as a chronic disease – something to be controlled instead of cured – because of my treatment.
Through this process, I’ve chosen to be joyful. If I can help somebody else by participating during this clinical test , i would like to try to to what I can, albeit it doesn’t cure my very own cancer. i think strongly that we’re placed on this earth to assist one another , and i have kept that in mind throughout my fight.
That’s why I’m also participating during a Body Donation for Cancer Research study led by Dr. Roychowdhury. The study, funded by Pelotonia, will investigate cancer treatment resistance after death.