Mike's Story

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Mike F

 
Age at diagnosis
43

Occupation
Software Entrepreneur, Father

Hobbies
Skiing
“After previously being told my liver was not resectable, I received 4 rounds of pump HAI therapy and was able to be resected.”

“After previously being told my liver was not resectable, I received 4 rounds of pump HAI therapy and was able to be resected.”

In 2016, Mike had run a marathon and had a personal best time, beating his record from 15 years earlier. He was in his physical prime and lived an active, outdoor lifestyle but had ignored signs of not feeling right. He was more fatigued than normal and had seen blood in his stool that his doctor thought was irritable bowl syndrome. In February of 2017 Mike just wasn’t feeling like his normal energetic self. He was more fatigued than normal and his body felt like it was slowing down. He asked his doctor if he should get a colonoscopy and the procedure took three months to schedule. When he finally woke up from the routine procedure the gastrointestinal doctor diagnosed him with a rectal tumor and referred him to an oncologist. His oncologist diagnosed stage 4 colorectal cancer with liver metastases and told him his liver was not resectable. 

“As an entrepreneur and son of a retired gastroenterologist, I was used to investigating new technologies and learning how medical treatments worked.” When his doctors told him the NIH guidelines for treating liver metastases from colorectal cancer were built around seventy-year-old males, he felt confident he could do better than the 5-year-survival rate of about 1 in 10 the doctors quoted. He called on six different oncologists at six different hospitals.

None of them offered options that provided the long-term survival potential he sought. Finally, another doctor told him about hepatic artery infusion(HAI) therapy and the Intera 3000 Pump. After reading the long-term survival data from published papers, Mike decided this was the best option for him.

He had the pump implanted in June of 2017 and within 5 months of HAI therapy, the doctors told Mike his liver was ready to be resected. He had surgery in November of 2017.  The liver tumors returned and his doctors were able to reactivate the HAI pump therapy to help shrink the tumors and bring him to a second resection that took place in October, 2020.  “After a 13-hour liver resection surgery in November, I woke up and was told I was cancer-free.”

Mike is looking forward to returning to his active family life.

Q&A

Q. What is it like living with the pump?
A. At first my pump felt like it moved around. However, over time, I got used to how it feels in my body. The pump chemo is great because I didn’t have the same physical side effects as I did with systemic chemo like hair falling out or nausea.

From an activity standpoint, the pump doesn’t stop me from walking and swimming. I do go skiing, but my days of going off cliffs are behind me. It doesn’t get in the way of daily living. Last summer I went camping to watch the lunar eclipse and painted my house. I don’t even think about the pump being there anymore.
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Stacy's Story

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Stacy O

 
Age at diagnosis
32

Occupation
Mother and licensed speech language pathologist

Hobbies
Healthy cooking and hiking
“All I wanted was to be a new mom, raise my child, and be with my baby. Stage 4 cancer was not anything I expected at that point in life.

“All I wanted was to be a new mom, raise my child, and be with my baby. Stage 4 cancer was not anything I expected at that point in life."

In 2008, at age 32, Stacy had just given birth to her first child after a completely normal and uncomplicated pregnancy. Two weeks later, she spiked a fever and both her ObGyn and internist found her glands were a little swollen and sent her home with an antibiotic for a week. When the fever persisted and then spiked, Stacy sought the opinion of another physician who conducted a battery of tests which ultimately led to a sonagram revealing lesions on her liver.

 Stacy received a stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis with liver metastases on a Friday and by the following Monday she had consultations with surgeons and oncologists to understand her options. The first recommendation was to remove the colon tumor, followed by systemic chemo and then re-evaluate the possibility of resecting the liver. The second was to start with systemic chemo to reduce the colon tumor and then implant a pump to deliver hepatic artery infusion (HAI) to provide regional delivery of chemotherapy directly to the liver.

  “The whole idea of the pump was scary to me; it was a foreign object in my body,” Stacy recalls. “I wondered whether I would be able to fit into my jeans if I had a pump”. Ultimately, she felt it was the best decision to lead to the possibility of liver resection and with encouragement from her doctors she was ready to move forward.

She started systemic chemo to shrink the tumor in the colon and then went for a colon resection in July 2008. During the surgery to resect the colon, she had the pump implanted. She started HAI therapy and said, “having the pump allowed me to receive chemotherapy and resume life with my new baby.” After four rounds of HAI therapy, the tumors on her liver shrank and her liver was ready to be resected. Stacy had a liver resection in January 2009 (left lobe) and then a second surgery on the right lobe in March 2009.  From 2009 she has been cancer free for 11 years.

Q&A

Q. What is it like living with the pump?
A. I was very fortunate. For the most part I went about my day. I was able to participate in many of my typical activities, like taking my child to his music and gym class. After the surgery – with the pump you are not supposed to lift more than 10 lbs., so that was difficult with a baby. Family and friends helped me with these tasks. I was able to do yoga and take long walks and eventually went skiing. For the first year, the pump felt foreign in my body, but I got used to it.

Rick's Story

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Rick B

 
Age at diagnosis
62

Occupation
Grandfather, Retired Program Management Consultant

Hobbies
Golf, Spending time with Grandkids
“Doctors told me that my life was likely measured in weeks not months. Four years later I have resumed my normal activities and spend time playing with my granddaughters and working on my golf swing.”

“Doctors told me that my life was likely measured in weeks not months. Four years later I have resumed my normal activities and spend time playing with my granddaughters and working on my golf swing.”

In March 2015, after a successful cardiac ablation procedure, Rick returned home and developed pain in the area around his liver. Following an evaluation and analysis of his MRI, a mass was discovered. The diagnosis was bile duct cancer that had metastasized to his liver also known as  cholangiocarcinoma. His doctors recommended he start on aggressive systemic chemo regimen right away. For the next 9 months he underwent bi-weekly 6-hour chemotherapy sessions in an effort to shrink the tumor with the ultimate goal of liver resection. Finally, in December, the doctors told him that the chemo stopped the tumor from spreading, but there had been no reduction in its size. Rick needed to consider other options.

Rick was told surgery and long-term recovery were no longer options. Due to the inoperable nature of his liver tumors and the lack of success from a regiment of systemic chemotherapy, he started to consider radiation therapy. Uncertain that radiation therapy was the treatment he should undergo, Rick sought other opinions and alternatives. At a third opinion, Rick learned about a treatment called hepatic artery infusion (HAI) therapy that could deliver concentrated chemo to the liver tumors without the systemic toxicity via a pump that would have to be implanted. He was understandably concerned about having a pump implanted, but after talking with the doctors who perform HAI therapy and implant the pump, he decided to move forward.

Rick had surgery to implant the pump in February of 2016. His doctors gave him HAI therapy until the end of 2016. Rick says, “After a year with the pump my hair growth returned along with my energy and my overall outlook on life. I felt normal again for the first time in a couple of years both physically and mentally”. Then, in late December Rick’s doctors told him he was ready for resection. He had his liver resected in February of 2017.

Rick has been able to get back to leading his normal pre-cancer life, walking 4 miles on a given day, playing golf, traveling and being with his granddaughters. He is ready and willing to tell anyone his story.

Q&A

Q. What is it like living with the pump?
A. Today, post tumor removal, I walk 3-5 miles and play golf, travel and play with my granddaughters. I have normal energy for someone my age. I wear looser shirts now. It’s a fashion trade off I’m happy to make.
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Don's Story

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Don S

 
Age at diagnosis
55

Occupation
Real estate broker 

Hobbies
Enjoys Nature

"While an implanted pump is a commitment, I was willing to accept that after reading the clinical papers on the benefits the pump can provide."

When visitors to Don’s home ask about the large, fully decorated Christmas tree behind his desk – that is up 12 months of the year – it’s an opportunity for Don to tell his pump. According to Don, his wife loves everything about Christmas and looks forward to putting up the decorations every year and is sad to see them go back into boxes. After his cancer diagnosis in 2016, they decided to keep Christmas around permanently in the form of a decorated tree in their living room. It is their symbol of hope and everyday joy.

In May of 2016 after a routine colonoscopy, the GI doctor gave Don the difficult news he had Stage 2 colorectal cancer. Although the GI doctor said he removed the polyps he found, Don would need to have a follow-up surgery to have half his colon removed.

That July Don had robotic surgery, a right hemicolectomy, with half of the transverse colon and all ascending colon removed. The pathology showed nothing penetrated the colon wall and all lymph nodes were negative – this was welcome news. Chemotherapy was not discussed or suggested. However, something nagged at Don. He had seen some small spots on one of the scans and although his oncologist, radiologist, and surgeons all said the spots were benign, he had read that the chances for recurrence for his type of cancer were high. So he pushed for a follow up scan earlier than was recommended.

Don’s fears were justified. The scan revealed that all the spots on his liver had grown and he was diagnosed as stage 4 with liver metastases and told he had a 40% chance of surviving 12 months. Don’s response to the devastating news was to dive into the research to see how he might improve his odds. He investigated extensively online for treatments options including survival odds, recurrence rates, best hospitals, clinical trials, anything that would give him a chance. The treatment that kept coming up was hepatic artery infusion (HAI) therapy. The data point that stuck with him was that with HAI therapy, patients were seeing a 50% chance of 5-year survival.

Don gathered up his scans and records and went to meet doctors who perform pump implants. After assessing Don’s disease, they agreed the HAI pump was an appropriate therapy for him. The following week, he had a liver resection and had the pump implanted.

After Don recovered from the surgery, his oncologist used the pump for adjuvant therapy for several months. He has been NED since 2017. Today, in addition to selling real estate, Don spends time organizing a stage 4 Colorectal Cancer (with Liver Metastases) group online where he shares information with patients about clinical findings as well as his personal experience with the pump. He enjoys feeding the birds and riding his bike.

And the Christmas decorations remain in his living room now as a symbol of both hope and success.

Q&A

Q. What is it like living with the pump?
A. The limitations on activities such as skydiving and deep-sea scuba diving don’t impact my life. My daily life has no limitations. While the pump doesn’t show visibly on me, I do find it’s sometimes more comfortable to sleep on the side opposite from where the pump is placed.
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Marsha's Story

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Marsha S

 
Age at diagnosis
41

Occupation
Insurance Consultant

Hobbies
KIDS! skiing, interior design

"Patients should be the CEO of their treatment. Getting a pump is an aggressive treatment that I would choose again if I had to do it all over."

“It all started with stomach pains that grew worse over time, until one day, it felt like somebody was stabbing me in the stomach with knives.” In August 2016, Marsha went to see a gastroenterologist who thought the cause might be bacterial colitis, then, ultimately, through a colonoscopy, discovered an obstruction. After a biopsy, the doctor  diagnosed her with colon cancer. She was 41 years young with 2 children, ages 5 and 7. As she tells the story, “I had no family history of any type of cancer. I exercised, I ate well and I was BRCA negative. Cancer wasn’t supposed to happen to me, but it did.” She was told it was stage 3 and went to have a colon resection and a grueling 12 rounds of chemotherapy. After the end of the treatment, she had a follow up CT scan and a colonoscopy and was given a clean bill of health. She thought she could finally put the nightmare behind her.

Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, routine blood work picked up an elevated CEA level. A PET scan confirmed that there was a large tumor on her liver and her cancer diagnosis was changed to stage 4. She was immediately referred to a liver surgeon for a consultation. The surgeon recommended liver resection immediately. “I had heard of Hepatic Arterial Infusion (HAI) Therapy through a friend who had been treated with it 9 years earlier and had had no evidence of disease for over 8 years.” She asked the liver surgeon about HAI and was told it was “overtreatment” in her case, because her tumor was already operable.

“What a relief!” she thought, “Who would want a hockey puck implanted in their abdomen?” Nevertheless, she decided to seek out a second opinion, mostly for confirmation that liver resection was the best course of treatment. The second surgeon strongly recommended liver resection and HAI Therapy together. Now, she was frustrated, confused, and didn’t know what to do and who to listen to. Finally, she posed the question to the surgeon who recommended HAI therapy, demanding that he explain why he was right and why his way was better.

He said, “Oh, that’s easy. HAI therapy more than doubles your chances of survival.”

“That was all I needed to know.” He went on to explain the treatment in great detail, as well as the history of how it came to be. He also directed her to some of the published research on the treatment. She read the research and was sold. “I wanted to do everything in my power to stay alive for my kids and put this disease behind me and I knew that the hockey puck unequivocally gave me my best chance.”

Marsha had the pump implanted in May 2017, together with a liver resection. Today, she is no longer in treatment and enjoys life with her family.

“I am eternally grateful to the doctors and the research that gave me access to this amazing therapy that has given me the best possible chance of survival.”

Q&A

Q. What is it like living with the pump?
A. I’m a smaller person so I notice it but certainly don’t regret having it. I have been able to do most activities post-pump install as I did before cancer, including the elliptical and wrestling with my kids.

 

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Josh's Story

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Josh G

 
Age at diagnosis
40

Occupation
Fund Manager

Hobbies
Tennis
“When your doctors tell you that you only have a 2% chance of long-term survival, you can’t think of the 98%; you have to focus on how you make that 2% your reality.”

“When your doctors tell you that you only have a 2% chance of long-term survival, you can’t think of the 98%; you have to focus on how you make that 2% your reality.”

Josh says looking back on the time before his diagnosis that “I was running a business, raising a two young kids, eating hamburgers and spicy fries, not sleeping well and really out of shape. I had pretty much given up on my health.”

In July of 2016 Josh was out on Saturday night and got an intense pain in his stomach. He went home and called his sister, a pediatrician, who said it could be gallstones. “She said if I could get through the night I was okay, if not, I should go to the emergency room.” Josh got through the night but decided to go to the emergency room the next day. They sent him home. At his wife’s urging he followed up with his doctor to get an ultrasound just to be sure it was really nothing to worry about.

His doctor called him after the ultrasound and told him there were some big spots on his liver. Josh’s reaction was “I was only 40 years old so there’s no way it’s cancer”. Further testing revealed elevated CEA levels. Now, Josh was scared. A follow up colonoscopy revealed “more polyps than could be counted”. The gastroenterologist told him to get to oncology immediately.

Based on his level of disease, the doctors told Josh he had a 2% chance of survival. “This was all I could think about. I had to focus on that 2% chance.”  One of Josh’s goals was to see his kids through important milestones such as his daughter’s bat mitzvah. He started systemic chemotherapy and within 3 months his tumors shrank 50%. In January of 2017 he had a simultaneous resection of his liver and colon. However, in May of 2017, when the tumors in his liver returned, the doctor recommended hepatic artery infusion (HAI) therapy with an implanted pump. The doctors told him, HAI pump therapy would deliver chemotherapy directly to his liver tumors and could help with recurrence.

He had the pump surgery in May 2017 and within 6 months was cancer free.  However, 6 months after that, the cancer returned. With the HAI pump still implanted, the doctor initiated another round of targeted chemo. After the tumors shrank, Josh was able to have a second liver resection. After the second resection, the doctor increased the dose in the HAI pump and this time the cancer did not come back.

Josh has been cancer free since 2018 and is planning his daughter’s bat mitzvah.

Q&A

Q. What is it like living with the pump?
A. I play tennis and play with the kids. I never missed a day of work.
Disclaimer: These stories reflect each person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options
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