Tags Archives: Patient Story

2 years ago Houma

Probability and Prostate Cancer

One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Mr. Eldon Bourg never thought he’d be the one.

One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Mr. Eldon Bourg never thought he’d be the one.

Born and raised in Grand Caillou and deeply rooted in his community, Bourg has never lived life by the numbers. He has spent his life working and growing his family in the Houma area. He married, had three children and nine grandchildren. But, he was also diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer at the age of 63.

During a routine checkup, Bourg told his doctor that he had been experiencing some pain in his lower abdomen. His doctor referred him to urologist, who recognized the symptoms of prostate cancer and had Bourg tested. He had never been screened before, but the results were positive, and in 2012 he was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer.

Bourg was treated at Mary Bird Perkins TGMC Cancer Center and now, five years later, counts himself a survivor. Bourg doesn’t allow his diagnosis to define him and still lives his life outside of the statistics, but now he advocates for others to get screened for prostate cancer.  “Right now, I’m talking to my sons about getting screened. It’s important,” says Bourg.

Mr. Eldon

“I would tell any man thinking about getting screened to start the conversation with their doctors. You need to be proactive about your health.”

The American Cancer Society recommends men be aware of the risk factors associated with prostate cancer and discuss screening options with their doctors. Men with average risk should asses their needs for screenings at age 50. Those with higher risk, including those with a family history should start at age 40 or 45.

Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center offers free prostate cancer screenings to men 45 and older who have not been screened for prostate cancer in the past 12 months. For a complete calendar of available screenings, click here.

3 years ago Baton Rouge

New Cancer Concern for Young Adults; a Leader Emerges

Generation X (born in late-1960s to early-1980s) and Millennials (born in mid-1980s to early 2000s) are learning that they may have increased risks for colorectal cancer. This warning comes from a newly released American Cancer Society study showing young adults have a higher risk of the disease, as compared to older generations. This is likely due to the complex relationship between colorectal cancer and obesity, as well as conditions caused by an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity.

Baton Rouge-native Barkley Booker, a Generation Xer and colorectal cancer survivor, is setting out to help educate younger people about of their risks, warning signs and screening options for the disease. A tireless advocate for early detection, Barkley is happy to share her story and encourages people to listen to their bodies.

“People tend to put off addressing their health,” said Barkley. “But, I’m here to say that being educated and proactive can save your life. I’m just grateful I’ve been given a second chance and I want to give back.”

As part of Barkley’s advocacy, she is a member of the Louisiana Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, a statewide coalition of organizations and individuals who are dedicated to reducing the burden of colorectal cancer in Louisiana. This year, she also accepted the voluntary event chair role for Get Your Rear in Gear, a walk/run to help raise funds for colorectal cancer awareness in the Baton Rouge area.

Barkley wants to help spread the word that colorectal cancer can be a completely treatable and beatable disease. She invites everyone to attend Get Your Rear in Gear on Saturday, April 1 to help increase awareness of the disease and enjoy a healthy, fun family activity.

3 years ago Baton Rouge

Wanda Poche – Lung Cancer Survivor

Monroe native Wanda Poche, who has fought metastatic (advanced Stage IV) lung cancer since fall 2014, says her disease wasn’t responding to chemotherapy, so when her oncologist suggested immunotherapy, she was willing to try it. Now nearly one-and-a-half years after starting an immunotherapy drug, her scans show no evidence of cancer. Wanda is now feeling strong and independent and recently spent Thanksgiving with her brother and his family in Monroe.

“This holiday season will be the best ever because I have so very much to be grateful for,” said Wanda. “In the new year, I want to continue doing what I do best: make people laugh. I also want to travel, dance and fish. I’ve got so much life left to live and with the help of God, Dr. Cataldo and immunotherapy, I’m going to do just that.”

While all drugs come with side effects, immunotherapy is shown to be less harsh than those that accompany other therapies. Still under treatment, Wanda says she has experienced no side effects and believes this new therapy could provide hope for so many other cancer patients in the local area.

Vince Cataldo, MD, is Wanda’s medical oncologist at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center. He says that he believes the future of cancer treatment is in immunotherapy. Dr. Cataldo was studying at MD Anderson when modern research on immunotherapy began developing. He became fascinated with this approach to treating cancer and is thrilled to offer it to his patients today.

“I see a day when immunotherapy will be the frontline [first] treatment option for many cancer patients with multiple cancer types,” said Dr. Cataldo. “For now, it’s giving physicians another tool for patients who aren’t responding to traditional treatments and providing patients with hope that this could be the answer they’ve been seeking.”

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3 years ago Baton Rouge

Blake LaBran, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivor

At 28-years-old, cancer wasn’t something Blake LaBran thought about. But after experiencing weight loss, night sweats, lack of appetite and growth of a neck mass, he knew something was seriously wrong with his health. Blake saw his physician and soon after received the news: he was one of the 2.6 per 100,000 people per year diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a blood and bone marrow cancer.

Blake said that every member of his care team was honest with him at all times and provided him with the motivation to stay positive and keep moving forward. And while it was a scary experience, he never felt alone with the support of his doctors, nurses, radiation therapists, and other staff along with God and his family. And he could not to ring a special bell, a tradition in which patients completing radiation and chemotherapy are invited to participate.

At the end of summer 2015, Blake was wrapping up his treatments, and at the same time, the Cancer Center was planning a celebration marking the end of a major renovation and expansion that would bring world-class care to the region. As part of this event, Blake was invited to ring a bell on stage, publicly announcing the end of his treatment, but also helping usher in a new level of care for cancer patients throughout the Gulf South.

“Being on stage at the Open House Celebration and ringing the bell for completing treatment felt like my homecoming; it was my moment,” said Blake. “Looking out over the crowd and seeing all the beautiful faces of those who took such good care of me made my heart full.”

3 years ago Baton Rouge

Clyde Sandifer, Acute Myeloid Leukemia Survivor

When someone hears the words, “You have cancer,” their world immediately changes and every area of their life is impacted. Fortunately, the Cancer Center’s THRIVE survivorship program offers many resources to address the emotional, physical and spiritual challenges patients and their loved ones face with a cancer diagnosis. THRIVE participants Clyde Sandifer, who is currently in remission from acute myeloid leukemia, and his wife Birdie, say the program has been critical in helping them accept their new normal as they navigate the ups and downs of the disease.

“I’m in remission, but my aggressive cancer could return. I’ve had to become more comfortable with uncertainty and that’s not always easy,” said Clyde. “But when we participate in massage, meditation or art programs, there is a real positive change that happens within our minds and bodies. It’s helping us learn to better manage the struggles and embrace the triumphs.”

THRIVE is based on the Mind-Body Medicine approach that utilizes the power of thoughts and emotions to influence physical health. Research shows that when Mind-Body programs are used with conventional therapies, side effects of chemotherapy and radiation are better controlled and patients’ overall well-being is enhanced. This is why patients and caregivers are urged to take advantage of free THRIVE services based on individual needs and preferences, such as massage therapy, art workshops, yoga sessions, support groups, mediation and so much more.

THRIVE services are offered to patients and their family members who are actively being treated for cancer, as well as those who have completed their treatment plan to promote physical and emotional healing.

3 years ago Baton Rouge

Elizabeth Franklin, Stomach Cancer Survivor

After visiting several well-known healthcare facilities in various states and getting the same feedback from all of them, Elizabeth Franklin was told that a cancerous tumor in her stomach was inoperable. She felt helpless and scared and thought she would have to live with a tumor that could one day take her life.

However, her outlook quickly changed when her gastroenterologist referred her to John Lyons, MD, a surgical oncologist at the Cancer Center. After a CT scan, Dr. Lyons told Elizabeth that he was confident he could immediately and safely remove her tumor.

Dr. Lyons also determined that the surgery could be performed robotically, which produces smaller scars, less pain and a shorter recovery period. And ironically, at the same time all of this was happening, Elizabeth had just started working at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center as a social worker on the oncology unit.

“I received the same answer from other healthcare facilities all over the country: my tumor was inoperable,” said Elizabeth. “But Dr. Lyons understood my disease in a way others didn’t; he possessed expertise that others didn’t. He saved my life, so now as a social worker I can help other people fighting cancer.”

Elizabeth says that now she never misses and opportunity to let people know that they don’t have to go far to get world-class care. And she can be confident in letting patients know they chose the right place to receive cancer treatment.

4 years ago Baton Rouge

Ruth Portillo, sobreviviente del Cáncer de Seno

Para muchas personas, recibir servicios de salud puede ser una experiencia muy estresante y para los que no hablan Inglés, la experiencia   puede ser aún más desalentadora. Ruth Portillo , quien habla solo español, dice que ella nunca pierde la oportunidad de decirle a sus familiars y amigos que aprovechen los servicios gratuitos para la detección contra el Cáncer que ofrece el Centro del Cáncer. Ruth dijo, “Para mí fue una muy buena experiencia y además, me salvó la vida.  Por eso todos deberian de hacerse estos chequeos gratuitos.” El trayecto de

Ruth comenzó después de recibir la noticia de que había sido detectada un área inflamada en uno de sus senos. Como mujer que es esposa, madre y trabaja fuera de el hogar, Ruth tenia muchas personas que la necesitaban. Ella decidió registrarse para tener uno de estos exámenes gratis despues de las horas de trabajo, para saber que estaba ocurriendo con su salud. Una intérprete de habla hispana la ayudo a comunicarse con sus médicos y expresar sus síntomas. Desafortunadamente, le diagnosticaron Cáncer, ella dice que fue una buena experiencia porque las personas de el Centro de Cáncer la ayudaron y la guiaron durante todo el proceso, desde el primer examen y hasta que terminó su tratamiento.

“Cuando uno no habla Inglés, uno siempre tiene miedo de que esto cree una barrera para recibir los cuidados propios para nuestra salud,” dice Ruth. “Ahora, le digo a todo el mundo que no tenga miedo de buscar ayuda y aprovechar los servicios gratis de detección para el Cáncer que ofrece el Centro del Cáncer; ellos los guiarán durante cada paso de el proceso. Ellos salvaron mi vida.”

Desde el momento que reciben el diagnóstico, los pacientes que son atendidos en el Centro de Cáncer son tratados como sobrevivientes. Ruth dice que para ella no había otra opción, más que la de luchar con todas sus fuerzas contra esta enfermedad. Ruth ha terminado la fase inicial de su tratamiento y pronto tendrá cirugía, pero por ahora ella se en foca en el future.

“Le doy gracias a Dios, a mi familia y a los Doctores que me han atendido. Miro hacia adelante, con ganas de tener una vida larga y feliz con los que amo.”

Para leer la historia de Ruth en inglés, haga clic aquí.

To read Ruth’s story in English, click here.

4 years ago Baton Rouge

Ruth Portillo, Breast Cancer Survivor

For many people, accessing healthcare services can be a stressful experience and for non-English speakers it can be even more daunting. But Ruth Portillo, who speaks only Spanish, says she never misses an opportunity to tell her family and friends that attending one of the Cancer Center’s free breast cancer screenings was a convenient, life-saving experience for her. And that they should be screened, too.

Ruth’s journey began after noticing an inflamed area on her breast. As a woman who is a wife and mother and works outside the home, she had many people counting on her, so she signed up for an after-hours screening to figure out what was happening with her body. A Spanish translator helped her communicate with the physician and articulate her symptoms. And while she did, unfortunately, receive a cancer diagnosis, she said that she was guided every step of the way from that initial screening through treatment.

“When you don’t speak English, you’re always fearful language will be a barrier to your care but that was not the case,” said Ruth. “Now, I tell people to not be afraid and take advantage of the Cancer Center’s free screening services; they will be with you every step of the way. They saved my life.”

From the moment of diagnosis, patients at the Cancer Center are treated as survivors. And Ruth said that for her there was no other option but then to fight the disease with all her might. She has completed the initial stages of her treatment and will soon have surgery, but her focus is on the future.

“I thank God, my family and my doctors. And I’m looking forward to a long, happy life with those I love.”

To read Ruth’s story in Spanish, click here.

Para leer la historia de Ruth en español, haga clic aquí.

4 years ago Baton Rouge

Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms Can Mimic Common Problems

New York-native Joe Ferrer was going about his normal daily shaving routine in July 2015 when he noticed a lump on his throat that made him pause. As a spinal cancer survivor, he knew that listening to his gut instinct about his health was important in detecting his previous disease early, so he brought the lump to his doctor’s attention the same day he found it.

After extensive testing, Joseph was diagnosed with tonsil cancer and began his second cancer journey. As with most head and neck cancers, the road to recovery was challenging at times. But, because he did not delay treatment, he’s back to living a full, cancer-free life. He recently completed a 10-mile bike ride and is golfing again. He also surprised his Cancer Center caregivers with a delicious homemade Italian meal!

As a navigator for head and neck cancer patients, I help guide them every step of the way from diagnosis through treatment. And being thankful for an early diagnosis is something I often hear patients express. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the chances for a cure and the easier it is to treat the disease. In Joseph’s case, early detection played a key role in his successful outcome.

I always tell patients they are their own best advocate. Never be afraid to tell your doctor if you have a concern of any kind. According to the American Cancer Society, early signs and symptoms of head and neck cancer can mimic common illnesses, including:

  • sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat that doesn’t go away
  • trouble chewing or swallowing
  • numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth
  • hoarseness or voice changes that do not go away
  • a lump or mass in the neck

Each year, National Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month is observed in April as a way to bring greater awareness to these diseases. The fastest growing segment of the oral cancer population consists of people between the ages of 25 and 50. More than 48,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year.

Joe’s proactive approach to his health can be an example to us all. We should all feel empowered to ask questions, be transparent with doctors and take action when we feel like our health could be at risk.

5 years ago Baton Rouge

Courage to Fight It

When prostate cancer patient James Morgan talks about his radiation therapy, he recalls the kindness of the staff and the convenience of the treatments. Morgan was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer and needed radiation treatments, which were made more comfortable and precise with a brand new, state-of-the-art radiation therapy system – the Elekta Versa HD. The Cancer Center is one of the first facilities in the country to offer this breakthrough technology as part of its recent renovations.

“It’s easy as far as treatment goes; it’s painless. There’s no sensation. There’s no nausea. There’s no burn. It’s very fast and effective,” said Radiation Oncologist Charles Wood, MD.

The Versa HD treatment room was also specially designed to ease a patient’s anxiety. The room includes ambient lighting that changes colors, and patients can watch a video or listen to their favorite music during treatment.