Eleven Years Strong: Surviving Pancreatic Cancer
In April 2010, a then 59-year-old Steve Lockwood was experiencing abdominal 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.
Diagnosis: Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer With 4 Months To Live
Steve's diagnosis wasn’t good.
He 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.”
Steve was told he had only four months to live.
Determined to not give up, his wife Joannie (a registered nurse), began gathering information and asking people for referrals.
Her co-worker, whose mother was a patient, immediately recommended Robert Nagourney, MD, medical director at Rational Therapeutics (now Nagourney Cancer Institute).
“She spoke very highly of him”, said Joannie. So, they called and scheduled a consult.
Meeting Dr. Nagourney
Even from the beginning, “Dr. Nagourney was very honest about my case,” said Steve. “He made no promises but told us he had success in similar cases”.
Dr. Nagourney explained the processes, the procedures Steve would go through and how the results would determine his treatment.
Depending on the results of Steve’s functional profiling, Dr. Nagourney would identify the best drug or combination of drugs to kill his specific cancer cells.
Talking to Other Oncologists
Steve and Joannie wanted to make sure they considered all options before deciding on the best treatment plan for them.
They consulted with 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 After we explained his process, she said we were wasting our money, his method was out of date, and I should get my affairs in order.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, they tried University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
“The doctor was very upfront” said Steve. 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.”
Finally, they went to 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”, said Steve.
The Best Choice: Functional Profiling with Dr. Nagourney
Armed with all their research and information, Steve and Joannie decided to go with Dr. Nagourney’s course of treatment.
“It made the most sense to us and has been the right decision,” said Joannie.
Steve’s functional profiling had a surprising result.
The test showed Steve’s cancer was sensitive to several current cancer medications, however, the combination of the three drugs that he appeared to be most sensitive to was entirely novel for this disease.
Steve began the chemotherapy Dr. Nagourney recommended.
His treatment was a “cocktail” of three medications, consisting of Gemzar (used for the treatment of pancreatic cancer), with Xeloda (used for breast or colorectal drug), and Cisplatin (a treatment for multiple types of cancers).
“The first couple of months my numbers continued to rise, but once my numbers started to fall they fell fast”, said Steve.
Within six months his markers were normal, and he was put on only maintenance medications.
“The combination of medications Dr. Nagourney picked for him is why Steve did so well”, said Joannie.
Living a Normal Life
It has now been eleven years since Steve received his Stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis and being told he only had months to live.
He is no longer on any medications and is living a normal life. He is riding his horse, traveling, and enjoying time with his wife.
“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.
“I feel better now in some ways than I did before I was diagnosed”, said Steve. “We appreciate every day for what it is… a miracle”.