Road to remission: Treatment, survival and advocacy

Nov 10, 2017

One patient's story of survival

Terri Brown’s journey with cancer began in August 2015 when she was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. She was referred to Salem Cancer Institute. Despite immediately starting on chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the cancer spread, and Terri was given two months to live.

But Terri is still here today, and on Nov. 15, she joined other advocates and survivors to share their stories at Shine a Light on Lung Cancer at Salem Cancer Institute. This annual gathering provides hope, inspiration and support for those impacted by lung cancer.

A chance worth taking
Facing the spreading cancer, Terri was told she had one last option, a clinical trial testing a new immunotherapy. Immunotherapies utilize a patient’s immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells from within. These types of therapies can have serious side effects that can cause the immune system to attack normal organs and tissues in the body, causing extensive harm.

Terri considered her minimal options and chose to take a chance on living longer — even if it meant months of pain without a guarantee of any kind. She knew this was a long shot and even went so far as to sell her house and all of her furnishings to make it easier for her children in case she died.

The treatment was a success. After one month of treatments, the size of Terri’s tumor had been reduced by 50 percent. By the end of the third month, it was undetectable.

This is not to say that it was an easy road. 

“I felt like I’d been through the wringer,” Terri said.

She spent months in a nursing home receiving physical therapy because her muscles had atrophied during the time she spent in and out of hospital beds.

The journey continues
Terri’s most recent CAT scan was clear of any cancerous cells, which means she’s in remission.

“I am eternally grateful to Dr. Strother, my primary care team and everyone at Salem Cancer Institute,” she added. “I feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be told that I’m not going to die, going through everything I went through and coming out on the other side. It’s important for me to give other people hope.”

Salem Cancer Institute is part of Salem Health, a healthcare system that offers exceptional care to people in and around Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley. It comprises hospitals in Salem and Dallas, a medical group of primary and specialty care providers, plus other affiliated services. Visit us at www.salemhealth.org; “Like” us on www.facebook.com/salemhealth; follow us on Twitter: @salemhealth; and view us at www.youtube.com/salemhealth. More information: Salem Health media relations, available 24/7 at 971-718-3157. 

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