Hope restored for rare liver cancer patient

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PattyCorcoran1.jpgBy Patty Corcoran

Cancer is a journey that no one wants to experience, but, by blogging, I keep family and friends up to date on my battle with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (a rare liver cancer). Sometimes it's humorous, sometimes it's serious, but, most of all, I hope it shows how my faith is with me throughout this journey.
Learn more about Patty on her blog

After a great day at work, I decided to hit the gym to work off some extra energy. After the elliptical, running two miles on the treadmill and riding 13 miles on the bike, I started home and had a terrible pain in my upper right side. I thought I was having a gall bladder attack, as my mother had hers removed when she was 43, and I had just turned 46 two months prior.

After about two hours, during which the pain increased in intensity, I told my husband I needed to go to the emergency room. A doctor finally came in and prodded around, said it was probably a gall bladder problem, gave me pain pills and told me to call a gastroenterologist on Monday.

I called, and the gastroenterologist agreed; it was probably my gall bladder, but he wanted to do a sonogram to make sure. On Tuesday, I showed up for the sonogram.

Once the procedure began, it seemed to be taking a very long time. Too long.

How fast can I get to Houston?
The next morning, I was scheduled for the gallbladder surgery, but approximately 30 minutes before leaving for the hospital, the doctor called and said they would like to do an MRI. When he called my husband and me into the consultation room, he resisted telling us much, mostly saying they would not do the surgery. My husband finally called and insisted on some answers. We were told they had found a mass in my liver and were 85% sure it was cancer. They wanted to do a biopsy, but I wanted a second opinion.

I called another hospital, traveled there two days later and had a biopsy performed. When the results came back, I was shocked: intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. The doctors offered little hope of long-term survival. I didn't care what the statistics said; I wanted someone to believe that I could beat this.

On the drive home, my daughter called MD Anderson for a third opinion. After faxing all our information, we were told a team of doctors would look at my case. Three hours later, the phone rang. I It was MD Anderson asking how fast we could get to Houston. We flew out three days later for our first visit with Milind Javle, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology.

Hope and options

He was a kind, gentle and genuine man; something I had not experienced at the two previous hospitals. He was honest: my mass was too large to remove. But he also had hope. He said I had several options for treatment, and we wouldn't give up. He called my oncologist back home, and I started chemotherapy. When it seemed to quit working, he suggested IMRT (intensity-modulated radiation therapy), and I moved to Houston.

I had 28 treatments -- five days a week for five weeks. The radiation team at MD Anderson were like family. Dr. Das, Dr. Kelly, Danna, & Travis were comforting and helpful; always there to answer my questions, lift my spirits and help in any way possible. They gave tips to help with nausea, must-see locations in Houston and the best places to eat.

There are no guarantees in my life. My tumor may not shrink, and my cancer may not continue to be stable. But at each visit, I can rest assured that Dr. Javle will not give up on me. He always has another tool in his "toolbox" to keep me on this beautiful earth as long as possible. That's the best thing about MD Anderson: they never give up!

1 Comment

You are awesome and such an inspiration for what you are going through. My father in law was recently diagnosed with a very rate Cholangiocarcinoma that is unresectable therefore we are currently working on getting him in to MD Anderson for at least clinical trials. Best of luck to you for your condition and prayers for recovery.

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