In April 2010, a then 59-year-old Steve Lockwood was experiencing mild diaphragmatic pain.
He began treating it with aspirin, but the pain continued to linger. A month went by without any change, so his physician ordered “a battery of tests,” including a CT scan, to determine the cause.
His diagnosis wasn’t good.
Steve had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. “Since the outcome of this type of cancer is poor, I was somewhat discouraged,” said Steve. “I wanted to know what the timeline might be for survival, so I could get my affairs in order.” Sadly, his physician gave him only six months to live.
His wife, Joannie, began gathering information and asking people for referrals.
Her co-worker recommended Robert Nagourney, MD, medical director at Rational Therapeutics (now Nagourney Cancer Institute). Her mother had been a patient of his and she spoke very highly of him.
They immediately made an appointment.
“He was very honest about my case,” said Steve. “He explained the process he follows, the procedures I would go through and how the results would affect my therapy.”
Depending on the results of Steve’ functional profiling, Dr. Nagourney would identify the best drug or combination of drugs to kill his specific cancer cells. “
Dr. Nagourney made no promises, but told me he had success in similar cases.”
Before they made a decision about treatment, Steve and Joannie decided to look at several options.
“We went to a local oncologist. When we said we had seen Dr. Nagourney, she was not familiar with him. After we explained his process, she said we were wasting our money, his method was out of date, and I should get my affairs in order.
“Next was UCLA. The doctor was very upfront. He said he had little to offer because of the type of cells involved and the conventional therapy he would use did not have a particularly good outcome.
“Our last stop was at City of Hope. Again, the doctor was very good. However, he said he had nothing but conventional therapy to offer and that I might as well stay with Dr. Nagourney, since it was closer to home.”
Steve and Joannie decided to go with Dr. Nagourney’s course of treatment.
It made the most sense to them and has been the right decision.
“It was nice to be offered some hope and a realistic representation of my chances of survival,” said Steve.
It has been five years since the Stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis and they are enjoying their lives together.
“We feel completely blessed for every minute,” said Joannie. “In the beginning it was not a good prognosis, but things did turn around and I’m here today to talk about it,” said Steve.
STAGE 4 PANCREATIC CANCER SPREAD TO LIVER
Ken Baumheckel was experiencing pain in the area just above the lumbar curve in his spine. An abdominal ultrasound revealed that Ken’s pain was caused by a tennis-ball sized pancreatic tumor and five growths in his liver. An endoscopic exam with biopsy confirmed that Ken had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had spread to his liver.
Ken made an appointment with Dr. Robert Nagourney at Rational Therapeutics (now Nagourney Cancer Institute), after learning about his work from a friend in the health care system.
NURSE WITH STAGE 4 PANCREATIC CANCER SPREAD TO LIVER
As a nurse, Margaret Johns is aware of protocols and “Best Practices.”
But there she was in the doctor’s office hearing about the only treatment available to treat the Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer she had. Fortunately for Margaret, she learned that standard protocols aren’t really the only or the even the best option.
"Six months or less is the prognosis my oncologist gave me as I sat in her office on May 4, 2009. My stage 4 pancreatic cancer had metastasized to my liver. All of this happened without having pain or symptoms.
Around the same time, I just happened to listen to a radio show where the host talked about Rational Therapeutics (now Nagourney Cancer Institute). It made perfect sense to hear about having chemo tailored to an individual. My daughter Googled some info and I knew immediately that I wanted to do this.