The greatest gift... survival: Breakthrough cancer treatments improving the odds

Breakthrough cancer treatments improving the odds (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - As people celebrate the New Year, a local mother and cancer survivor wants everyone to remember not to take a single day for granted.

She is a survivor that had one of the toughest cancers to conquer. But she would not give up. She's sharing her story so others will know there is hope, even against the odds.

"I felt like I had morning sickness all the time."

A little more than a year ago Debbie Hogsten began to experience unusual symptoms that were making her really sick. By the time Dr. Erik Dunki-Jacobs, or Dr. DJ as he's affectionately known, was able to take a closer look at images, he noticed what looked like a large mass.

"And in evaluating that mass we felt like this was invading some blood vessels," he said.

Not only did Debbie find out she had cancer, but she found out she had a kind of cancer that people often don't hear good success about. When she shared that with family members she said many assumed the worst.

"Especially when the cancer is preceded by pancreatic," she shared.

So she decided it was time to let people know they can beat the odds.

Dr. DJ admitted most of the time, "If we can't do surgery, there's really no chance for a cure. But now we have a category called borderline resectable, which means that although it's unresectable now, we give some treatment , chemotherapy and or radiation, then we can shrink that tumor and get it to a resectable state."

Sure enough it worked, and Debbie was soon after in surgery.

"She had a great response to the chemotherapy, nearly all the cancer cells were dead. The tumor shrunk and it shrunk away from the blood vessels and then we were able to go in with surgery later, remove the cancer. She's done great since then," said Dr. DJ.

What's more is that now with pancreatic cancer, Debbie is not the only one.

Dr. DJ pointed out that according to the NIH you used to see a death with every diagnosis of pancreas cancer, "But recently we started to see a separation in that so although people are getting diagnosed with pancreas cancer, not everybody is falling victim to the disease. There are survivors. These families that are living through this, they need to know that there is some hope and we are making some progress. There is a chance for victory in this disease."

The gift of survival, Debbie said, simply makes you see life, the way everyone should every day, "It opened my eyes to a lot of things, don't worry about little stupid things, it's not worth it, times to short."

One of the reasons the cancer is tough to beat isn't always because of its type. It's often because there are few, if any, early warning signs until it's rather advanced.


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