Patient Stories

Meet 5 Cancer Survivors Celebrating Life

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Discover the Stories of Extraordinary and Everyday Patients

Don’t let a cancer diagnosis set the tone for your life. Survivorship begins at diagnosis and thanks to breakthroughs in treatment and care, two-thirds of people diagnosed with cancer are expected to reach the five year mark. Medical and emotional support increasingly allows cancer survivors to return to their everyday and retain their sense of self throughout and after treatment.

Over 15 million Americans are cancer survivors and each and every one has a unique and incredible story. Meet five who embody the call to celebrate life.

Jenna’s Battle With Blood Cancer

When Jenna was diagnosed with grey zone lymphoma, a rare blood disorder affecting fewer than 300 people in the United States, specialists at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University leveraged the expertise of a multidisciplinary team to customize a care plan for her. Jenna, determined to increase the amount of support available to patients like her, put her own twist on cancer survivorship – she founded an online community for those touched by the disease.

As she approaches the exciting five-year mark, Jenna is embracing the latest twist in her life: a beautiful baby girl named Noa. And when Jenna gave birth at the same hospital that saved her life, the significance was not lost on her. She had come full circle: seeing new life in the same place and surrounded by the people that saved hers was a miraculous experience.

Learn more about Jenna.

Jason’s Taste for Care After Throat Cancer

When Jason learned he had stage IV squamous cell carcinoma of the throat, he underwent a neck dissection. He told a friend what was happening and she had a suggestion.

“She was the one that said, you know what, my father went through cancer as well and he was treated at Lurie Cancer Center,” Jason remembered.

Shortly after that, Jason met his new team.

“It was life changing,” Jason said. “I got personalized, specific care. All the people I would talk to I met from the get-go: This is the team that will be working with you, they’ll meet every Monday and talk specifically about your case. This is your head nurse, this is your oncologist, your radiation oncologist, your doctor for check-ups. Everything was so dynamic in a way that made me feel like I was being cared for.”

Learn more about Jason.

Mary’s Everyday Answer to Breast Cancer

When Mary went for her annual mammogram with Nadim Khoury, MD, a recently retired Northwestern Medicine physician and her primary care provider for 25 years, he asked her to return for further testing. A biopsy confirmed a diagnosis of breast cancer – non-invasive ductal carcinoma in situ – and her care team referred her to Kevin Bethke, MD, a Northwestern Medicine breast cancer surgeon. Dr. Bethke removed Mary’s tumor, but surgery revealed additional signs of cancer. An outpatient lumpectomy – 45 minutes with twilight anesthesia – would treat that too.

After diagnosis, it was important to Mary that her care would allow her to maintain her everyday life, and she expressed as much when she was evaluated for radiation and medication. Ultimately, her care team did not recommend radiation and they developed a plan that did not require medication either. Together, that allowed Mary to make a simple but strong assertion about how cancer would impact her everyday: “I’m not letting it bother me,” Mary said. “I’m going to live the rest of my life in a calm and happy way.”

Learn more about Mary.

Sloan’s Climb Back From Prostate Cancer

Sloan started seeing N. Richie Thakur, MD, when he moved to Chicago from New York in 1997. Dr. Thakur was his first steady primary care physician, and over time, Dr. Thakur developed a strong familiarity with Sloan and his health. His vitals were typically better than average, due in large part to his active and healthy lifestyle, but that never distracted Dr. Thakur from one concern: Sloan’s prostate numbers.

When a consultation and additional testing with an urologist revealed prostate cancer, Sloan was bewildered. So much of his life revolved around nutrition, exercise and health that to hear he was sick was a shock.

But Sloan’s healthy habits were about to pay off. While most people face a certain degree of risk with surgery, being in shape significantly reduces that risk. Furthermore, when his urologist began explaining Sloan’s treatment options, he learned that, due to his good health, he was a strong candidate for a breakthrough treatment: da Vinci® surgery.

Learn more about Sloan.

Christy’s Active Attack on Colon Cancer

Christy was diagnosed with colon cancer when she was 41 years old. A self-described adrenaline junkie with an abiding athleticism and freakishly high pain threshold, Christy was active every day until an ultrasound for gallstones led her doctors down a path of tests that would change her life.

The time after diagnosis was a blur and Christy came to rely on Linda, her nurse navigator. Head spinning, occupied with thoughts of hair loss and worst case scenarios, Linda made sure Christy did what she needed to do over the two weeks between MRI and surgery.

“I was strong, but I also had a bit luck on my side. And a great staff,” Christy said. “It wasn’t just the physicians who gave amazing care, but people like Linda, the people who schedule the appointments, handle the insurance. Every little thing, they were like, don’t worry about it. You worry about making sure you’re healthy. We’re going to take care of it.”

Learn more about Christy.

Northwestern Medicine brings together the cancer specialists and services from Lurie Cancer Center, Northwestern Medicine and the Cancer Control and Survivorship research program to improve the lives of cancer survivors and their families. Learn more about the Cancer Survivorship Institute.