Patient’s Corner

Colorectal Cancer

I Am Living With Recurring Stage IV Colorectal Cancer

Brian Beck, NP, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  June 10, 2024

Despite urgings from my primary care physician to get a colonoscopy screening after I turned 50, I resisted. As a health-care provider, and someone who is tuned into changes in my body, I thought I would instinctively know if I had a serious illness. I was wrong. Even after finally relenting to at l...


Partnering With Patients Is Integral for a Good Outcome

Paula Ngon as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 25, 2024

About 3 years ago, I woke up from a sound sleep and was having a hard time breathing. It felt like someone was sitting on my neck, constricting my airways. I could feel prominent swelling in my lymph nodes along my neck and clavicle, and I was scared. A trip to the emergency room proved fruitless,...

Prostate Cancer

A Delay in Diagnosis Led to Advanced Prostate Cancer

Colbert English, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 10, 2024

Cancer is not an unfamiliar disease to me. My mother died of cancer when I was 12. My oldest sister died of breast cancer, an aunt died of cancer (I don’t know which type), and my older brother is a prostate cancer survivor. So, when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October 2021, the news was...

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Stalked My Family for Generations and Finally Came for Me

Dawn Yates as told to Jo Cavallo  /  April 25, 2024

My maternal grandmother, mother, and two of my mother’s sisters were all diagnosed with breast cancer when they were relatively young, so I figured one day, the disease would come for me. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among Alaska Native women,1 and at a very early age, my sister...

Bladder Cancer

A Clinical Trial for Bladder Cancer Gave Me Back My Life

Lesa Kirkman, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 25, 2024

About 8 years ago, I was just a few years into menopause when I noticed blood in my urine. It wasn’t accompanied by pain, frequent urination, or any other troubling symptoms, so initially I wasn’t too concerned. But when I started passing pieces of tissue, I became alarmed and made an appointment wi...


I Am Young and Fit—and Have Stage IV Alveolar Soft-Part Sarcoma

Alexis Browning as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 10, 2024

Except for my right thigh being bigger than my left thigh, there was no hint that I was harboring advanced alveolar soft-part sarcoma when I was diagnosed with the cancer in 2019. I initially chocked up the discrepancy in my legs to the vigorous workouts I had received during my cheerleading days, b...


Preventing Cancer Should Not Mean Sacrificing Quality of Life

Kathleen M. Ruddy, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 25, 2024

My family first suspected we might have inherited the BRCA1/2 gene mutation after my father was diagnosed with his third cancer, colorectal cancer, following multiple bouts of squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma beginning in his 30s and later prostate cancer. But the high risk of cancer...

Breast Cancer

My Breast Cancer Experience Has Led Me to Leverage My Expertise in Human-Centered Design to Transform Patient Care

Sylvie Leotin as told to Jo Cavallo  /  January 25, 2024

The road to my breast cancer diagnosis in 2018 was long and tortuous. For 3 years leading up to the diagnosis, I had imaging scans and tissue biopsies every 3 months because of suspicious masses in my breasts. The uncertainty was so destabilizing that I was in a constant state of emotional unrest. D...

Multiple Myeloma

I Don’t Want Cancer to Define Me

Cindy Brown, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 25, 2023

Except for a series of unexplained multiple broken bones and inexplicable excruciating pain in my right hip and leg, I had no other hallmarks of multiple myeloma when I was diagnosed with the disease at age 48 in 2014. My blood test values were all normal, and I didn’t have anemia or kidney damage. ...

Colorectal Cancer

Having Colorectal Cancer at 32 Changed the Trajectory of My Life

Allison Rosen, MS, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  November 10, 2023

I’ve been contending with health issues since I was 12, when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. As I began my early 30s, I was feeling the healthiest of my life. I was working out 5 days a week and attributed sudden weight loss and fatigue to weight training and high-intensity Zumba classes. Th...


A Cancer Diagnosis at 19 Taught Me That It Takes Constant Vigilance to Stay Mentally Healthy

Alec Kupelian as told to Jo Cavallo  /  November 25, 2023

A lot of my experience with cancer is hazy to me. I was taking narcotics for pain around the clock when I was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2013, so there are some missing memories during those early days. I was 19 and a freshman in college when my symptoms started. I have always been active in...


Getting a Cancer Diagnosis at Age 16 Has Taught Me to Live in the Present

Nelson Peralta, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  October 25, 2023

I have been fascinated with death since I was 3 years old. I remember going to my great-grandfather’s funeral and asking my mother where my great-grandfather was. She said he is in heaven. I asked her if I were going to heaven, too, and she said, “Yes, but not for a long time.” Today, I don’t belie...


A Diagnosis of Ewing Sarcoma Altered the Trajectory of My Life

Mafalda Von Alvensleben as told to Jo Cavallo  /  October 10, 2023

In August 2014, just a few weeks after my 15th birthday, my body began sending me a lot of worrisome signals that life as I knew it would soon be over. The year before, I had developed a hematoma in my right femur, which was resolved with surgery. But now the pain I was experiencing in that leg was ...


Finding a New Life Purpose After Cancer

Carlos Rene Valdez, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 25, 2023

In the summer of 2012, I was living my dream. At 28 years old, I had gone from an impoverished childhood in South Central Los Angeles to the high life in the city of Los Angeles. Unable to afford to go to college, an after-school program helped launch me into a career in the hospitality industry. I ...

Pancreatic Cancer

Instinct and Perseverance Helped Save Me From Two Cancers

Diana Heller as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 10, 2023

My intuition about my health has served me well over the past 10 years, possibly even saving my life from two serious cancers. In 2013, I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma. I believe that my awareness of changes in my body led to its early discovery. One evening, after exercising at the gym wi...


After Two Cancer Diagnoses, I’m Grateful for Another Day

Loriana Hernandez-Aldama, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 10, 2022

The start of January 2014 was filled with excitement. I was undergoing fertility treatments to have a second child and was living my professional dream. I was a network news anchor and medical news reporter for a national broadcast network. Although I was exhausted from my grueling early morning sch...

Cost of Care

Overcoming Financial Toxicity From Cancer

Keneene Lewis, MEd, BSM, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  August 10, 2023

I knew the moment my fingers found a lump in my left breast, in 2018, that it was cancer, and I wondered if I was going to die. My maternal grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 39, the same age I was when I discovered the mass in my breast. She died 5 years later. Divorced...

Pancreatic Cancer

Turning Fear Into Hope

Shirlee Simpson as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 25, 2023

The first sign that pancreatic cancer was stalking my family was in 1982, when my mother was diagnosed with stage IV disease. She was just 54 years old and died several months later. After two more family members in their early 50s were also diagnosed with the cancer, I began to worry that I would b...

Breast Cancer

I Didn’t Want My Past to Become My Future

Yoli Origel, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 10, 2023

When I felt a large mass in my left breast as I was drying off from a shower on Thanksgiving Day, in 2007, I instinctively knew it was cancer. My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 38, just 7 years older than I was at the time, and died 4 years later. I was 6 when she was diag...

Colorectal Cancer

Becoming Acquainted With Cancer

Patrick Beauregard as told to Jo Cavallo  /  October 25, 2020

Editor’s Note: The ASCO Post learned of the death of Patrick Beauregard due to colorectal cancer on September 6, 2020.  Just weeks after my wedding in late summer of 2017, I had a sudden bout of abdominal pain so severe that it sent me to the emergency room. I was just 29 years old and in great phy...

Colorectal Cancer

Becoming Acquainted With Cancer

Patrick Beauregard as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 25, 2019

Just weeks after my wedding in late summer of 2017, I had a sudden bout of abdominal pain so severe that it sent me to the emergency room. I was just 29 years old and in great physical shape. In the emergency room, a physician examined me and was about to release me with a prescription for a laxativ...

Pancreatic Cancer

Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer Saved My Life


When my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer 25 years ago, her medical team suggested we undergo genetic testing for the BRCA gene mutation. I knew that being a BRCA carrier put me at greater risk for breast and ovarian cancers, but I had no idea it also increased my risk for pancreatic cancer. I...


I Was Unprepared for a Diagnosis of Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Jeff Dunn, PhD, AO  /  May 25, 2023

The irony is not missed on me. In August 2022, 2 months before I was to start my tenure as President of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), I was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma. My entire career over the past 30 years has been in the pursuit of improving global cancer control and...

Lung Cancer

An Incidental Finding of Cancer Likely Saved My Life

Debra Bowler, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 10, 2023

Except for a ganglion cyst that had mysteriously popped up on the palm of my right hand in the winter of 2016, I appeared to be in excellent health. I had never had any serious illnesses in my then 55 years and rarely even got colds. If the annoying cyst hadn’t interfered with my normal daily routin...

Breast Cancer
Pancreatic Cancer

I’m BRCA-Positive and Survived Both Breast and Pancreatic Cancers


Cancer has stalked my family for generations. My mother, brother, and maternal uncle were diagnosed with melanoma. Fortunately, all survived. When my sister was diagnosed with early-stage invasive ductal carcinoma in 2010, she underwent genetic testing, which showed she was positive for the BRCA2 ...

Lung Cancer

Genetics Likely Caused My Small Cell Lung Cancer


When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, in 2007, I asked the physician not to tell me the type, stage, or prognosis. I was about to start nursing school and was aware enough about the disease to know that not many people survived. I’ve since discovered that I had stage 3B small cell lung cancer, wh...

Solid Tumors

I Haven’t Known a Life Without von Hippel-Lindau Disease

Alexandra Vitale, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 25, 2023

Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease has been with me since I was 5 years old, when a benign tumor was found on the optic nerve of my left eye, leaving me blind in that eye. But I didn’t get an official diagnosis of the disease until 2011, when I was 20. By then, it was like a light switch had turned on,...

Lung Cancer

I’m Doing My Part to Erase the Stigma Surrounding Lung Cancer

Lindi Campbell, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 10, 2023

Ironically, I received a diagnosis of lung cancer when I was feeling my healthiest. In December 2015, when I was just 51 years old, a routine chest x-ray found a small shadow on the lower lobe of my right lung. Despite being a never-smoker, a regular exerciser, and a healthy eater, my primary care p...

Skin Cancer

Grateful to Be Alive


Although there is no history of cancer in my family, I guess it isn’t surprising that I would develop an  aggressive form of melanoma on my scalp after years of ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure. Still, getting  the diagnosis was devastating. I first noticed a small lump on the top of my head...


The Beauty and the Beast of Cancer

Ann Graham, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 10, 2023

The most humbling—and fortunate—experience I’ve had since I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma 13 years ago at the age of 43 was being treated in the pediatric wing of a major cancer center in New York City. It is pretty difficult to feel sorry for yourself when you are sitting next to a 14-year-old ad...



Donna Chen, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  January 25, 2023

Soon after my marriage, in 2003, I noticed swelling in the glands around my throat. Although I otherwise felt fine, I went to see my primary care physician for a checkup and a blood test. The results of the test showed that I had an abnormally high number of lymphocytes circulating in my bloodstream...

Lung Cancer

A Serendipitous Ride Along a Highway May Have Saved My Life

Denise Lee, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 25, 2022

In 2017, I noticed a roadside billboard touting the benefits of low-dose computed tomography (CT) imaging for lung cancer screening. The message probably saved my life. The public service campaign, called Saved by the Scan from the American Lung Association, included an Internet address where I coul...

Prostate Cancer

I Have the BRCA2 Gene Mutation: Here’s What I’m Doing to Prevent Cancer

Steven Kalister, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 10, 2022

My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1994, when he was just 55 years old. He died 6 years later. The cancer was so aggressive, it took only a few weeks from the time he was diagnosed for the cancer to grow to the size of a softball, and even a radical prostatectomy couldn’t save his life....

Head and Neck Cancer

A Laryngectomy Altered How I See Myself in the World

Bill Brummel, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  November 25, 2022

There is a 2-decades-long separation between the time I was diagnosed with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma in 1996 and my laryngectomy in 2016. The surgery was necessary because of the long-term damage to my larynx from the radiation therapy I received. In 1996, I had a low-grade sore throat ...

Lung Cancer

I’ve Had Two Primary Lung Cancers, and They Haven’t Defeated Me

Dorothy Turner, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  November 10, 2022

I don’t know why I am so susceptible to developing lung cancer. Since 2014, I have been diagnosed with both non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer, each occurring in my right lung. I have also been diagnosed with precancerous colon polyps, which necessitated invasive surgery. ...

Breast Cancer

Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer

Pam Kohl, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  October 10, 2022

After my first breast cancer diagnosis, in 2010, the odds for a cure were seemingly all weighted in my favor. A routine mammogram screening had picked up a small—less than 1 cm—mass in my right breast, and a tissue biopsy confirmed it was stage I estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer. I had no fa...


An Aggressive Type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Threatened My Life

Devorah Aschendorf as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 10, 2022

I was just 31 and about to give birth to my fourth child, Yitzchok, when I received a diagnosis of primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma. The news was terrifying and crippling. For months, I had been experiencing shortness of breath, coughing, and a pain in my left shoulder, all of which were ex...

Prostate Cancer

Surviving Advanced Prostate Cancer Has Made Me a More Empathetic Physician

Gary M. Onik, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  August 25, 2022

My diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer 3 years ago was filled with irony. As an interventional radiologist, I have treated hundreds of patients with advanced prostate cancer, and I knew my prognosis wasn’t good. After experiencing some of the common symptoms of the cancer, including voiding proble...

Solid Tumors

Thriving After a Diagnosis of Stage II Anal Cancer

Daniel G. Garza, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  August 10, 2022

About 7 years ago, I had emergency hernia surgery and soon after began experiencing severe constipation and abdominal bloating. I had started to have minor symptoms leading up to the surgery, but now the pain and exhaustion of trying to have a bowel movement became unbearable. I met with a gastroent...

Multiple Myeloma

CAR T-Cell Therapy Gave Me Back a High-Quality Life

David Wellenstein, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 10, 2022

A radiologist by training, I knew the minute I saw the results from my chest x-ray that I had multiple myeloma. In 2015, I was semiretired and had just taken up the game of golf. After making a big swing at the ball, I instantly felt pain in my ribs and thought I had either pulled an intercostal mus...

Lung Cancer

Immunotherapy Has Given Me Back My Life

Susan Falbo as told to Jo Cavallo  /  June 25, 2022

Hearing the words “You have cancer” is a devastating blow, especially when the biggest health issues you’ve had to contend with over more than 6 decades are common colds and knee and hip replacements. But in 2017, the symptoms I thought were from a lingering summer cold drove me to seek medical atte...


Finding a New Normal After Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma

Aram Demirjian as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 25, 2022

As every patient diagnosed with cancer knows, the disease affects not just your physical well-being, but your emotional well-being, too. I was just 35 years old when I was diagnosed with early-stage classical Hodgkin lymphoma this past summer, and the news came at a time when I was feeling in top ph...

Breast Cancer

Why Are Black Women Still Dying at Higher Rates Than White Women From Breast Cancer?

Rev. Tammie Denyse, MDiv, MCL, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 10, 2022

What is so dismaying to me is that the statistic on survival for Black women with breast cancer has not changed since I was diagnosed with breast cancer 17 years ago. In 2005, Black women were 41% more likely to die of the disease than White women, even though Black women are less likely to be diagn...

Breast Cancer

Having Metastatic Breast Cancer Has Led Me to Focus on What Matters

Reverend Tawana Davis, PhD, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  April 10, 2022

Nothing can really prepare you for cancer, but it helped that I have dedicated my life in service to others as a minister and advocate for social justice and health equity in breast cancer survivorship. Before my own breast cancer diagnosis in 2016, I had spent years as a volunteer for several breas...


I Enrolled in the WISDOM Study and Learned I Am at High Risk for Cancer

Sally Luckett, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 25, 2022

I have always been interested in volunteering my services and helping others, so when I got an e-mail asking if I’d like to participate in the WISDOM (Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measures of Risk) study ( I signed on. The study plans to enroll 100,000 diverse women f...

Colorectal Cancer

Grieving the Loss of Sexual Intimacy as a Result of Cancer and Its Treatment

Aaron Martin as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 10, 2022

About 5 years ago, I began experiencing some digestive issues that I initially blamed on the stress from coping with my mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. But after 2 weeks of unrelenting symptoms, including abdominal pain, a change in my bowel habits, and rectal bleeding, I saw my primary c...

Breast Cancer

As a Black Woman, I Knew I Had to Advocate for the Best Breast Cancer Care

Shannon Coleman, MA, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 25, 2022

When I got the call from the radiology department telling me I had to come back for a follow-up mammogram right before Christmas of 2020, I wasn’t surprised or initially concerned. I have dense breasts, and my first mammogram 2 years earlier had also detected suspicious areas in one of my breasts th...

Lung Cancer

Cancer Has Made Me a Risk-Taker, and That’s Good

Tiffany Fagnani, RN, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  January 25, 2022

In 2017, I was caring for my brother, who was suffering from respiratory failure due to complications from cerebral palsy, and working full-time as a registered nurse. I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted all the time. I was also losing weight at an alarming rate—more than 70 pounds in just a yea...

Colorectal Cancer

I Don’t Know Why I Got Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer

Diego Davis-Olegário, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 25, 2021

Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood, I had been plagued with digestive issues, including bouts of gastritis and constipation, which seemed normal for me and wasn’t too concerning. But by the time I turned 30, in 2015, the acid reflux I had been experiencing became so frequent and uncomfort...

Lung Cancer

I’m Living—and Thriving—With Stage IV Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer

Janet Wohlmacher as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 10, 2021

A diagnosis, in 2020, of stage IV adenocarcinoma non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) was found accidentally. I was 55 at the time and in the best physical shape of my life. I had spent the previous year and a half on a diet and exercise regimen that had rendered me 35 pounds lighter and feeling healt...