Patient Leslie Brenner lost her husband to lung cancer, faced her own colorectal cancer diagnosis, sought a second opinion that changed everything for her, and now, eight years later, continues to thrive. This is her story.
I met my husband in high school. We were high school sweethearts and then we got married in 1967. It was love at first sight for me. I don't know if it was for him or not. We just had a wonderful life together being good friends. We were just really, really good friends, along with a deep love for one another.
He was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, and he was seeing an oncologist that was not with Christ Hospital. It was very difficult going there with him because it was almost like he was treated like a number and not a person. But I thought, "This is the way it's supposed to be. The doctors are so busy. They don't have time to really treat the individual."
He passed away three months after his diagnosis.
I was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2010, just before Gary was diagnosed with the lung cancer. At that time, I was seeing the same oncologist that my husband saw. It was just supposed to be routine. But after my husband passed away, my blood levels were gradually going up. I questioned the doctor about that. He told me not to worry, that let him do the worrying, and that he was watching me like a hawk.
About six months after my husband passed away, I went in for another routine check, and I didn't see the physician at the time, but I saw his assistant. He said, "Your blood levels have increased considerably the last time you were in." I said, "Well, nobody let me know." He said, "I can't speak for the doctor, but let's run another blood test and see where you're at." Well, they'd gone up even more.
The colon cancer had metastasized to my liver. I always tried to keep an upbeat attitude about my cancer, thinking that it was just another job that I had to get through, and that everything was going to be fine. But I realized I needed to make a change.
I started asking around, and actually the attorney that handled my husband's estate had had colon cancer and went to The Christ Hospital Cancer Center. The difference that I saw in the chemo suite versus what my husband went through at another facility was just unbelievable. The nurses knew me by my name. They smiled. It was an upbeat place to be. I didn't feel like I was just a number.
One of the things that I found about my oncologist was that he was always willing to go above and beyond simply treating the cancer. When he brought in another patient who had stage IV colon cancer and had survived, that meant more to me I think than anything, and gave me more courage to know that I could do this; I could fight this; I would survive.
Every day, every minute, is precious. Each morning when I wake up, I'm so grateful that I'm here for my children and for my grandchildren. If anyone is watching this video or reading this and you feel that there's no hope, or that cancer is a death sentence; it's not. You can do it. You can do it.Click to learn more about how our cancer experts can make a difference in your life or the life of a loved one.