August 29, 2019
Nancy Felix was newly married and had promised her husband, Fred, that life with her would be anything but boring. What she didn’t anticipate was cancer being part of that new transition.
At age 65, Nancy was the picture of health: She walked 4 miles on the treadmill each morning and was busy with many activities.
“Heart disease runs in my family, so I try to stay healthy,” says Nancy, of Gladstone, Missouri. “But, endometrial cancer wasn’t even on my radar. The diagnosis was a complete shock.”
As newlyweds in spring 2016, Nancy and her husband were on vacation when she began to experience symptoms. “I started to bleed ... actually hemorrhage. We went to the hospital to check it out,” she says. “Doctors there didn’t seem overly concerned and suggested I see my primary care physician when I returned home.”
From newlywed to newly diagnosed
After talking with her 3 daughters about her issue, they urged her to seek immediate attention.
“One of my daughters is a nurse practitioner and she scheduled an ultrasound,” Nancy says. “The ultrasound revealed that my uterus was more than 10 times larger than it should have been.”
Nancy had a biopsy and the results came back positive for endometrial cancer, also called uterine cancer. She was immediately referred to Andrea Jewell, MD, gynecologic oncologist at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.
“My first fear about having cancer was what I was going to be leaving my children with – a cancer diagnosis. Their father passed away from pancreatic cancer, and I didn’t want to do that to them again,” she says. “But Dr. Jewell assured me that it wouldn’t be like that this time. She was upbeat, happy and cheerful. She left me feeling positive and hopeful about the experience.”
“Nancy and her family were vigilant about her getting a diagnosis and pursuing treatment,” says Dr. Jewell. “At the onset of her symptoms, she sought medical help. Because her cancer was caught early, we were able to treat it and achieve the best outcome possible.”
Not risking recurrence
Nancy had a complete hysterectomy, performed with minimally invasive robotic surgery, in July. That was followed by vaginal brachytherapy, under the supervision of radiation oncologist Andrew Hoover, MD. Nancy received 5 doses of vaginal brachytherapy, a form of radiation that targets a specific location in the body, usually a specific operative site or a tumor location. Because brachytherapy is a localized treatment, patients tolerate it well and typically have fewer side effects. The University of Kansas Cancer Center is one of few facilities in the region to offer this treatment.
“Because Nancy had some high-risk factors, we felt this was the best way to beat the chances of her cancer recurring.” explains Dr. Jewell. “Her prognosis is improved and her side effects have been reduced by performing minimally invasive surgery and localized brachytherapy.
“Many patients require treatment from more than one specialist in the management of their cancer,” continues Dr. Jewell. “At the cancer center, we work in tandem with other specialists every day. We have a weekly tumor board where we review our patients’ treatment planning with a multidisciplinary team. This offers an integrative approach and improves the coordination of care for our patients.”
Only the best
Nancy says that while cancer is never pleasant, her experience with The University of Kansas Cancer Center was excellent. “Anytime that you have something wrong with you, you want the best – the best treatment, doctors, technology. That’s what I found at The University of Kansas Cancer Center."
“It was the most advantageous place I could’ve been. The doctors and nurses were terrific. The atmosphere was cheerful and homey. When I was there, they made me feel like I was their only patient at that time. I never felt rushed, and they always answered all of my questions. Simply put, the doctors, nurses and staff are professional and personable – they made me feel very comfortable. I knew I was in the best hands possible,” says Nancy.
Although she will need surveillance and continued follow-up appointments, Nancy said she feels positive about the future. She looks forward to spending more time with her husband, daughters and 4 grandchildren.
“I love to laugh and have fun," she says. "And, fortunately, the doctors at the cancer center have given me a shot at doing much more of that."