Patients With Cancer and Their Providers Share Stories of Hope

Patients and providers shared inspiring stories of hope, as well as some tips for better living at the Seventh Annual Ruesch Center Symposium: Fighting a Smarter War on Cancer. 
Two years ago, Emily Pomeranz went into hospice care, nearing the end of her life, after her cancer had spread to her pancreas, liver and two spots on her lung. It was her third battle with the disease, and also her worst.

But in a turn of events, instead of losing her battle she recovered, came off of hospice and is alive to share her inspirational story today. She did just that at a live broadcast of CURE Connections held during the Seventh Annual Ruesch Center Symposium: Fighting a Smarter War on Cancer on Dec. 3 in Washington, D.C.

She told an audience of patients, survivors, caregivers and physicians how she fought and won her battle against Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 20 years old thanks to aggressive radiation treatments – only to discover 20 years later that she had cancer again, this time in her breast.

Pomeranz told how she read an article in The Washington Post about radiation in the 80’s and women being diagnosed with breast cancer years later. This prompted her to go for an MRI which led to a stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis.

“Radiation was like a weird double-edged sword,” she told the crowd. “I had viewed it as my saving grace because it cured me of the Hodgkin’s disease initially, so it never crossed my mind that it could actually cause harm to me.” She underwent a mastectomy, but seven years later, at age 47, she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. After only five rounds of treatment, she stopped and entered hospice.

“If it had been the first time I had been diagnosed with cancer, I would have been more of a fighter, but frankly, in my case, it made me less of a fighter. I felt beaten down,” said Pomeranz.

When her cancer wasn’t getting progressively worse, she left hospice. That was January 2015, and a few months later, in April, her scans showed that all of her tumors were gone.

Philippa Cheetham, M.D., host of CURE Connections called her a “living, breathing miracle.”

The day-long patient symposium featured live panel discussions on specific cancers including colorectal, pancreatic and liver and biliary, as well as nutrition, the unmet needs of patients with gastrointestinal cancer and support that is available.

“It affects young people and old people, men and women and we need to speak with one voice” said John Marshall, M.D., director of the Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Part of our mission here at the Ruesch Center is to convene and to bring people together, to speak with that one voice.” As the live panel went on, more and more patients took to the stage sharing their courageous stories, many sitting alongside the doctors who treated them.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Pancreatic Cancer CURE discussion group.
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