Long-term cancer survivor celebrates remission after seven recurrences
GILBERT, Ariz. (June 18, 2014) – Carolene Davis, 52, has been forced to stay on her toes when it came 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 is going 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 – theres no more stress,” said Davis regarding how different remission feels this time around.
Dr. Diljeet Singh, MD, of Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert played a major role in treating Davis. Singh, who is director of the gynecologic oncology program, put Davis on a very 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 Davis’ side effects of chemotherapy.
“Once I started eating organic foods and a lot more veggies, I felt so much better,” said Davis. “I did everything right this time.”
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. Davis said even when she first started battling cancer, she never let it get the best of her. Sure, she was worried, but she was able to focus on what to do to cure the disease instead of dwelling on the fact that she had it.
Not even the loss of all her hair could change her positive, bubbly additude.
“I have Trixie, Lola and Warrior Princess,” Davis said, listing just a few of her wigs that she named.
It started when Davis was getting her annual pap smear. Up until this point, nothing out of the ordinary had appeared in her results. But this time, at 36 years old, 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 her to need 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.
“If somebody gives up, they are not going to make it,” said Davis. “I enjoy life. There is so much to do in life, don’t give up.”
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 her son, who was only eight years old when she was first diagnosed, graduate from the Golf Academy of America in Temecula, Calif. She made the goal to make it to the age of 50 – a birthday she celebrated with family and friends two years ago. Now she hopes to see her son start a family.
Davis has remained positive as she battled the cancer that returned to her right lung and later appeared in her stomach and neck.
Chemotherapy and radiation were required to treat the cancer that was spreading into her lungs. This helped, but two years later it came back again in her right lung.
With the disease now in remission, Davis recently underwent her final chemotherapy treatment at Banner MD Anderson. Her treatment plan has 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. The integrative approach empowers patients by directing their energies towards healthy lifestyle strategies, improving the tolerance and success of treatment, and reducing the risk of recurrence,” said Santosh Rao, MD, medical oncologist at Banner MD Anderson.
Banner MD Anderson, located on the Banner Gateway campus, delivers cancer care to patients in Arizona through the collaboration of Banner Health and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Banner MD Anderson offers focused disease-specific expertise in the medical, radiation and surgical management of the cancer patient; an evidence-based, multidisciplinary approach to patient care; access to clinical trials and new investigative therapies; state-of-the-art technology for the diagnosis, staging and treatment of all types of cancer; oncology expertise in supportive care services.