Celebrate Good Times, Come On…
Lung Cancer Is in Complete Remission after Personalized Treatment
Last May,Joanne Potts had a persistent cough she couldn’t kick. Upon her second office visit, her doctor ordered a chest X-ray and referred Joanne to a specialist. Joanne was stunned to learn that what she thought was a cold, was actually lung cancer. Furthermore, it had spread to a lymph node in the center of her chest.
“When the doctor told me I had cancer, I was so shocked I didn’t utter a word,” recalls Joanne. “In the midst of my distress, my husband, Thomas, bravely reminded me that ‘all sickness isn’t death.’ His words helped me in my resolve to take one day at a time.”
A series of tests at Abington Memorial Hospital showed the lemon-sized mass in Joanne's right lung was non-small cell lung cancer. Key to effective treatment would be determining the stage of Joanne’s disease. Without making a single incision, Pulmonologist Raj Patel, MD, used a minimally invasive technique to collect a tissue sample of the affected lymph node in the center of Joanne’s chest. A pathologist would study it under a microscope to stage Joanne’s cancer.
For patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer, AMH holds a Pulmonary Cancer Evaluation Conference at The Rosenfeld Cancer Center every two weeks. “All physicians involved in the patient’s care – surgeons, pulmonologists, radiologists, pathologists and radiation and medical oncologists – meet specifically to discuss each case,” explains John Redmond, MD, chief, Medical Oncology, and medical director, Rosenfeld Cancer Center, AMH. Together, this multidisciplinary team of experts reviewed Joanne’s case, including the results of all her diagnostic tests.
Based on the stage of Joanne’s cancer, the Center’s experts developed an individualized treatment plan for Joanne, derived from recommendations of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). This alliance of 21 of the world’s leading cancer centers, develops and publishes guidelines for oncology care. The guidelines are based on scientific evidence from significant trials and studies, and include treatment recommendations for 97 percent of cancers.
For Joanne, AMH specialists proposed surgical removal of the tumor. To make it operable, they would need to reduce its size first, using a combination of radiation treatments and chemotherapy. “I trusted that these medical experts could eradicate my cancer,” says Joanne. “My job was to stay healthy, continue with therapies, and continue in my faith in order for the mass to shrink enough for surgical removal.”
Over the course of five weeks, Joanne completed 15 radiation treatments and five sessions of chemotherapy. Throughout the process, Joanne prayed and kept a journal. She joined a support group at AMH and participated in chair yoga, guided meditation and healing touch therapy. The regimen worked. The tumor shrank.
In October, a portion of Joanne’s right lung was removed in a minimally invasive procedure. The traditional open surgery requires a long incision from front to back on one side of the body. Instead, the surgeon operated through several small incisions, using specialized instruments and a tiny camera (endoscope) to magnify his view on a large video screen. For patients, the endoscopic procedure means far less post-operative pain, less scarring and a more rapid recovery.
When Dr. Redmond delivered news of Joanne’s post-operative test results, he announced that she and her family should throw a victory party. Joanne was in complete remission. There was no sign of cancer.
Joanne has spent the months following surgery regaining her strength and caring for her family. She also wrote an article about her experience for her church bulletin. She is eager to resume her volunteer work at an elementary school, and is especially excited about rejoining her bowling team.
“When I reflect on my journey, I’m so grateful to my family, the medical team at Abington Memorial Hospital and my family doctor, who got the ball rolling,” says Joanne. “I also realize my spiritual foundation proved to be the path to my emotional and physical well-being. This experience will enable me to share my story with others facing these challenges. I’d like to give them the hope they will need to survive and live full and meaningful lives.”