In 2002 I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer amidst a blur of white noise. I was given that death sentence you only hear in movies: get your affairs in order or basically get ready to go downhill fast. They prescribed four different kinds of chemo in the hospital for 24 hours a day for three weeks, and then a resection of my stomach and the chemo treatment again. I felt I would never survive, and so I decided to keep going to other doctors until I found something that made sense to me. They gave me two months to live -- more blur, more white noise. Even though I had already seen three doctors, luckily for me I didn't except it, didn't feel ready and continued to get other opinions. My forth and fifth doctors awaited me. My forth doctor, Dr. Charles Forscher, head of Sarcoma at the Samuel Oschin Center at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, was the first one to go back to my previous cancer cells from 12 years before. He found that my cells from the cancer had slipped and had formed eight large tumors I now live with in my abdomen. The good news was it came from my uterus, and it now made my cancer hormone driven and open to hormone therapy. Vaguely, I remember a Dr. Nelson's name in the background. He was a pathologist looking at my slides. I pictured this little grey-haired doctor in a back office looking at slides all day long and promptly forgot that name until...
Nine years later I was presenting the Virtue of Medicine award to Dr. Forscher, given to him by the Sarcoma Foundation of America and the Robert Urich Foundation, and right before we went backstage Dr. Forscher (who by this time I called Charles) said to me, "By the way, Beverlye, I wanted to introduce you to Dr. Scott Nelson. He was the pathologist on your case." Bingo! Standing before me was a vibrant, friendly, young-looking man. It shook me. Here was the last piece of my puzzle.
He said he remembered my case vividly and speaks about it all over the world. He put my tumors next to the ones the other doctors thought it was and although it looked almost identical he and Dr. Forscher concurred it was different and was open to different treatment. They then sent me to Dr. Frederick Eilbur, head of Sarcoma at UCLA in Los Angeles, and they came up with an experimental treatment for me. They had to get it approved by the tumor board, which happened in a few days. Since then I have been on a shot and a pill and my tumors have stayed the same. Because I was telling my story at this event, my children, their spouses and my husband were all there. We embraced Dr. Nelson and thanked him for his meticulous diagnosis.
I couldn't sleep that night. It took so many circumstances that had to fit perfectly to save my life. 1) My internist Dr. Kurt Ransahoff finding the mass and making me go for X-rays, biopsies, MRIs etc., 2) Dr. Forscher going back into my old slides with Dr. Nelson and 3) Dr. Eilbur's and Dr. Forscher coming up with the right experimental treatment.
After my grandmother, mother and two sisters died of cancer, was it an accident or providence that I was in the right places at the right time? Since I have been allowed this extra time my passion is now helping others who have just been diagnosed with cancer. I have written two books and produced a short inspirational film and have been lucky enough to speak all over the country. Nine years later I hope to continue to make a difference. I am so blessed and grateful. I have put my puzzle all together and now I can put it to rest. Maybe this is what it's about.