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Cancer, In the News

Fighting a stage IV cancer diagnosis

The current issue of AARP The Magazine shares the pretty amazing story of Edie Littlefield Sundby, a 61-year-old California  cancer “outlier” who we blogged about last year. Writer Meg Grant shares the specifics of Littlefield Sundby’s stage IV cancer diagnosis and early treatment:

There were as many as 50 fast-growing tumors — in her gallbladder, where doctors believe that the cancer originated, and on her liver, her colon, her bowel and her lungs. What stood out among the details the physician offered that day was that one of the tumors appeared to be seven inches long. “Whoa,” was all Edie could say. The doctor told her she probably had just three months to live. “He said the disease was incurable, with limited treatment options that would only delay the inevitable,” Edie recalls. “He advised me to think about palliative care and to start planning for hospice.”

A few days afterward, she arrived without an appointment at the Stanford Cancer Institute office of George A. Fisher, M.D., a gastrointestinal oncologist who treated Steve Jobs. He reviewed Edie’s records, put his arm around her and said, “I cannot cure you, but I can treat you.” Fisher promptly started Edie on an aggressive combination of chemotherapy drugs, a regimen he prescribed off-label to allow her the benefit of new medicines developed to treat cancers more common than her rare adenocarcinoma of the gallbladder. Twelve weeks and four chemo infusions later, tests showed that 80 percent of the cancer was gone. Fisher called the results “stunning,” but warned Edie: “Twenty percent of the cancer is still there, and it could kill you rather fast. Your liver looks like the Milky Way.”

Littlefield Sundby would go on to have several surgeries and setbacks, but is now technically in remission – despite the fact that Fisher says the chance of someone “with advanced gallbladder cancer that had spread as far and wide as Edie’s [surviving] for five years is well under 5 percent.” Read the full story to learn why her physicians believe she has done so well.

Previously: Beating the odds: Life as a chronic cancer patient
Via @StanfordHosp

3 Responses to “ Fighting a stage IV cancer diagnosis ”

  1. Patricia A Hall Says:

    Reading about Edie and her family, I want to follow her to see how she is doing. I so admire her courage and willingness to “fight on”…
    Where can I do that?.God Bless you Edie and family..

  2. Wendy Wilson Says:

    I just received my January 2013 AARP magazine. The article about Edie’s cancer was riveting, I couldn’t stop reading. I want to follow her progress she is an inspiration to everyone with or without a terminal illness. I will pass this along to my neighbour who is fighting stage 4 brain cancer and encourage her to keep on fighting to live, as Edie says “I’m fighting to stay alive, not because I fear death, because I love life”.

  3. Harriet Clymer Says:

    I just read Edie L. Sundby’s remarkable and inspiring story about fighting Stage IV cancer. I cannot stop thinking about her nor can I stop praying for her. Please keep us posted on her progress and on the suspicious spot that has appeared on her thyroid. Gob Bless you Edie and your whole family as well as the fantastic group of Physicians that take such good care of you.

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