8 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R
with Cancer Center senior scientist and chief of the sec- tion of surgical oncology Marty Heslin, M.D. Before we talked to Dr. Heslin, we were thinking What do we do? Where should we go? and Memorial Sloan Kettering and M.D. Anderson came to our minds, Mrs. Hynson says. But then we found out that Dr. Heslin came from Memorial Sloan Kettering, and so we didn t have to go to New York and could stay close to home.
Dr. Heslin explained her condition and gave Mrs. Hynson three options: Do nothing and monitor the tumor for signs of change; perform a biopsy to see if the tumor was malignant; or remove the tumor surgically. Mrs. Hynson opted for the surgery, and Dr. Heslin performed a Whipple procedure on March 7, 2007, to remove the tumor. The surgery was successful, and though the tumor was found to be cancerous, it hadn t spread to her lymph nodes.
Cancer on Trial While in the hospital recovering from her surgery,
Mrs. Hynson was visited by Dayle Craig, one of the Cancer Center s research nurses, who offered her the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial for patients with pancreatic cancer. Thanks to their research prior to coming to UAB, Mrs. Hynson and her husband were already familiar with the concept of the clinical trial.
Dayle was very calm in the way she presented the trial and its possibilities, Mrs. Hynson says. It took about a month for the testing to find out if I even qualified to be in the trial, but she presented it in such a way that it made me feel like this is a good thing, that it was something I wanted to do something that I should do.
Mrs. Hynson s trial started as a one-year study, which was then extended for another year and then another three years. For her, it has now been extended indefinitely. The trial laid out a specific course of che- motherapy over a period of 18 treatments, along with the experimental vaccine being studied. For the past six years, Mrs. Hynson has returned to the Cancer Center
on the last Thursday of every month to see Ms. Craig and oncologist Tina Wood, M.D., to receive the vac- cine and have lab work done.
Mrs. Hynson responded well to the vaccine, although the side effects have at times been challeng- ing. She sometimes suffers a high fever and flu-like symptoms, which can last for as little as a few days or as long as two weeks. When the side effects have been sometimes worse than others, Dr. Wood has asked if I want to keep on with this, and I m going to keep on with it, she says. It may be helping me, but if it s not, it may help someone else one day. But the trial has been a real positive for me.
Mrs. Hynson s clinical trial actually led to Birmingham becoming the Hynsons second home. After one chemotherapy treatment, a particularly bad reaction left her in the hospital for 10 days. After another, she became sick as they headed home to Mississippi and had to turn back. They rented a house in Birmingham for 18 months to be closer to UAB before deciding to buy an apartment for a more permanent arrangement.
Dealing with Cancer Mrs. Hynson is a member of an extremely rare
group only five percent of pancreatic cancer patients are alive five years after diagnosis. When faced with those odds, she credits the personal care she received from her husband and the professional care she received from the Cancer Center to help her remain optimistic and strong. This was where my husband really came in, Mrs. Hynson recalls. He just took over. I did not collapse into tears. I wasn t really scared. I was just confident. I had such confidence in him, and I knew he was going to tend to it.
I really never thought I was going to die, she says. The only thought I had was to keep going. I m going to get up every morning and get dressed and keep going.
I think positive thoughts have been important for Lessley from the beginning, Mr. Hynson adds. She s been very positive about this thing and wanting to be here
nurses are just
getting care as
good as I am,
but nobody s
better. It s
just been a
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