Long-term cancer survivor celebrates remission

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

Thumbnail for 7194Submitted by Lakin Green, public relations intern for Banner Health

From: azcentral.com

Carolene Davis, 52, has been forced to stay on her toes when it comes to her health. Not once or twice, but seven times she had to face the words: You have cancer.

After 16 years of struggle, Davis’ cancer has gone into remission. Talk about a reason to celebrate: Doctors say she had a 1 percent chance of surviving for this long based on her cancer type.

“I’m a lot happier — there’s no more stress,” said Davis, regarding how much different remission feels this time around.

Davis recently made a special visit to Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center and brought flowers to thank her physician, Dr. Diljeet Singh, and the medical staff who treated her.

Singh, director of the gynecologic oncology program, put Davis on a strong chemotherapy regimen that required three drugs to fight Davis’ aggressive cancer.

She recommended herbs and supplements, and helped Davis adjust her eating and exercise habits. They worked together to come up with ways of using integrative medicine to lessen the side effects of chemotherapy.

Davis believes the changes in her diet played an important part in battling her disease, but she also had a secret weapon: the gift of positivity. She remained focused on fighting the disease instead of dwelling on the fact that she had it.

At age 36, she learned she had cervical cancer and was immediately scheduled for a radical hysterectomy. Doctors chose not to remove her ovaries, which were not visibly involved by cancer and are not typically a part of how cervical cancer spreads. But two years later, they found tumors in her left and right ovaries, which led to a second surgery.

In another two years, the cancer returned more aggressively. It had spread to her lymph nodes and pelvic area and was moving into her lungs. Doctors started to prepare Davis for the worst. They said she probably wouldn’t survive.

Davis realized she had to start setting goals. First she wanted to watch her only son graduate from high school. She later went on to see him graduate from the Golf Academy of America in Temecula, Calif. She made the goal to make it to age 50 — a birthday she celebrated with family and friends two years ago. Now she hopes to see her son start a family.

Davis remained positive as she battled the cancer that returned to her right lung and later spread to her stomach, neck and lungs. She recently underwent her final chemotherapy treatment at Banner MD Anderson. Her treatment plan involved integrative oncology, an approach that brings together the best of complementary therapies with the latest treatment for cancer.

“The diagnosis of cancer often leaves people feeling helpless,” said Santosh Rao, medical oncologist at Banner MD Anderson. “The integrative approach empowers patients by directing their energies toward healthy lifestyle strategies, improving the tolerance and success of treatment, and reducing the risk of recurrence.”