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Chronic Cancer: A New Category of Survivor

Since 2000, and the hundreds of new approaches to cancer treatment, a new kind of patient has emerged — one who may live years beyond their initial prognosis by moving from treatment to treatment.
PUBLISHED March 10, 2017
Kathy LaTour is a breast cancer survivor, author of The Breast Cancer Companion and co-founder of CURE magazine. While cancer did not take her life, she has given it willingly to educate, empower and enlighten the newly diagnosed and those who care for them.
Since 2000, and the hundreds of new approaches to cancer treatment, a new kind of patient has emerged — one who may live years beyond their initial prognosis by moving from treatment to treatment.

In 1998, 31-year-old Suzanne Lindley learned she had metastatic colon cancer in her liver, and was told she had six months to live. She and her husband Ronnie reacted by moving to the country from their urban home in Texas to focus on making the time she had left memorable for their two daughters, Katie and Karlie, who were 11 and 8 years old at the time.

Lindley also became adept at using the computer to connect with others in her situation. She was online when one man told her she needed to fight for her life as he had, greatly extending the time the doctors had given him.

It was the first bit of hope she had received; Lindley began chemotherapy for the first time shortly thereafter.

That was 18 years ago, and since then, Lindley has grown into what one doctor called an “advocate extraordinaire.”

The beginning of her journey involved “hitchhiking” from one drug and clinical trial to another. Her goal was to live long enough to see both her daughters graduate.

In 2004, it appeared she would not reach her goal when the clinical trial she was on had no impact on her liver tumors. She felt the end was in sight.

Again she went online, and another friend suggested brachytherapy, a radiation approach which was relatively new and involved sending microspheres, minute glass balls of radiation into the tumor to destroy it from the inside out. She underwent the procedure in 2005 and it destroyed 65 percent of her tumors, allowing her to begin chemotherapy again.

It was also the beginning of the next part of her journey. In 2006, Lindley met Andrew Kennedy, M.D., one of the top researchers in the field of brachytherapy, in Washington, DC, where the two spent the day convincing top lawmakers not to remove brachytherapy from the list of Medicare approved treatments. Kennedy, who she calls her dream maker has become one of Lindley’s greatest supporters. The two have created a new meeting model that brings patients, caregivers and physicians together to provide them information on treatments, as well as direct contact with the physicians and researchers who could extend their lives.

In addition, Lindley created new goals for herself since her daughters were moving on in their own lives. She returned to school, earning a master’s of social work. She also became active with LIVESTRONG and started the nonprofit organization, YES (www.beatlivertunors.org).

Her goal, Lindley says, is to give patients with liver metastases hope and understanding that the diagnosis is not an immediate death sentence.

Read the full story of Lindley’s journey as a chronic cancer patient in Heal®.
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