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UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

Cancer Survivor Stories

With their stories of strength, hope and courage, cancer survivors offer inspiration to one another, to their friends and families, and to the doctors and nurses who care for them. Here are some of these stories, shared by patients who have been treated at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and take part in UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center programs.

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John Bailey — Strength and perseverance in recovery from kidney cancer

John BaileyJohn Bailey had been having trouble with kidney stones since the late 1980s — two or three a year, by his estimation. Then, in 2002, he was diagnosed with cancer in his right kidney. The kidney was removed. Bailey went back to work and returned for an MRI every year. “For a while, everything was looking pretty good,” he said. But in late 2011, he and his doctor discovered that the left kidney now had cancer.


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Michael Mahaffey — Thirty-year cancer survivor recalls life-saving care at UC Davis

Michael MahaffeyMichael Mahaffey was an active 42-year-old living on his ranch in Auburn, California. A successful businessman set to leave for Europe, Mahaffey noticed his gums starting to swell and pain behind his eyes. He had never had a serious health condition before, and figured a routine blood test would provide a simple explanation. But it wasn’t simple. A bone marrow test revealed that Mahaffey had acute leukemia. His oncologist at the time told him he probably would not live more than a month and a half. That was 30 years ago.
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Iryss Holliday — Rare disease, exceptional outcome

Iryss Holliday © UC RegentsDwayne Holliday thought his daughter, Iryss, had a urinary tract infection. But when they felt a rock-hard lump on the right side of her abdomen, the dad took his little girl to see the doctor. Within 24 hours, Iryss went from the possibility of a urinary tract infection to the strong potential of a diagnosis for kidney cancer.

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David Davidian — Overcoming the emotional trauma of a cancer diagnosis

David Davidian © UC RegentsDavid Davidian did everything right. He ate a healthy diet. He worked out regularly. He was active on his newly purchased ranch in the foothills north of Sacramento. Recently retired and ready to launch the next phase in his life, Davidian had no reason to worry about a health crisis. So when he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008, he felt confused and angry. How could this happen to him?
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John Gallagher — Conquering mountains and head and neck cancer

John GallagherJohn Gallagher first noticed a lump under his jaw right before his annual physical. His primary care physician at UC Davis Health System said it might be a sinus infection that had caused a lymph node to overreact, but to return if the lump didn’t go away. Gallagher returned and was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who performed a biopsy. The diagnosis was throat cancer.
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Titus Chang — A Miracle Match

Titus Chang © UC RegentsEighteen-month-old Titus Chang had black and purple bruises all over his body, and a nose bleed that soaked a bath towel. Sandy and Lee Chang rushed their baby to a Stockton, Calif. hospital. It was no simple nose bleed; the toddler was turning purplish and pale, and the situation was life threatening.

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JoAnn Cannon — Getting back to a "new normal"

JoAnn CannonJoAnn Cannon, a 62-year-old retired professor of Italian studies who lives in Davis, Calif., had for years dealt with a condition called achalasia, which causes food to collect in the esophagus and makes swallowing difficult. It also predisposes people to esophageal cancer. During an examination, her doctor found a tumor that had penetrated the esophageal muscle.

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Gene Denn — Minnesota patient sought UC Davis expertise in eye treatment

David Davidian © UC RegentsWhen Gene Denn, a retired Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), was diagnosed with left eye choroid melanoma at the University of Minnesota, he was given the following treatment options: enucleation, or removal of the eye; watchful waiting and monitoring the tumor’s growth; or radiation therapy administered by a small disc called a plaque, surgically placed on the posterior of the globe. But, embarking upon further research, Denn decided to investigate proton therapy as an alternate treatment method — and discovered the top-ranked Eye Center at UC Davis Health System, one of only a handful of centers nationwide that offered this therapy.
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Gary Hinze — Team approach to cancer care

Gary and Sandie HinzeWhen Gary Hinze found himself coughing up blood after a hard workout, he immediately went to see his doctor and was then referred to a pulmonologist and then an oncologist in Grass Valley, where he and his wife Sandie live. The diagnosis: Stage IIIA lung cancer, with a large right upper lobe mass. The oncologist ruled out surgery, determining that Hinze would require his entire right lung to be removed (a pneumonectomy) and probably would not survive surgery, but did suggest radiation as a palliative treatment plan. The Hinzes decided to get a second opinion and requested a referral to UC Davis.
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Ruby (SaEada) Sharon Evans — Using spirituality and medicine to overcome breast cancer

SaEeda Evans © UC RegentsHaving endured cystic breasts for years, SaEada Evans was tired of having them so frequently aspirated – so she stopped going to the doctor. "I didn’t get checked for a few years," she admits. Then she found a painful lump under her arm. It was stage III breast cancer.


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Lana Young — grateful after minimally invasive surgery

Lana YoungLana Young hadn’t experienced any type of injury or pain before a nagging pain crept into her back. When the pain began affecting her daily activities – a dedicated runner, she took her kids out every day in the jogging stroller – she visited her primary care physician. Laboratory work, ultrasound and a CT scan at UC Davis Health System revealed a cyst on her pancreas.


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Tura Jenkins — Portrait of a cancer survivor

Tura Jenkins © UC RegentsTura Jenkins was already emotionally shaken from a family death when she was diagnosed with Stage III endometrial cancer. Treatment was aggressive and included chemotherapy, external and internal radiation treatments, and blood transfusions.


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William Olive — Back on the job after participation in sarcoma clinical trial

William Olive © UC RegentsWilliam Olive, a deputy sheriff in Oroville, first noticed numbness, tingling and pain down his leg. His personal physician, a member of his SWAT team, told Olive that the lump wasn’t normal, and ordered scans. The scans showed a soft tissue mass on his buttock near his hip.


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Rollie Swingle — "Being in clinical trials has kept me alive and healthy"

Rollie Swingle © UC RegentsRollie Swingle was diagnosed with Stage IV prostate cancer in January 2004, with lesions detected on his spine, ribs and right pelvis.  Rollie joined a clinical trial of a new prostate cancer treatment and for the next six years enjoyed life as he had always done.  Recently, signs of the disease had returned; Rollie is fighting back by taking part in another clinical trial.

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Francesca Arnaudo — "Miracle girl"

Francesca Arnaudo © UC RegentsBy the age of 10, Francesca Arnaudo already had survived two cancer diagnoses – osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, and acute myeloid leukemia, a white blood cell malignancy.  Routine follow-ups in 2009 led to the discovery of a third type of cancer, a lung cancer known as bronchioalveolar carcinoma.  Fortunately, early detection and surgery have allowed this unstoppable girl to overcome this latest hurdle.
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Jim Otto — Football legend tackles a new opponent

Jim Otto © UC RegentsThe Jim Otto personifies the term "survivor." A member of the original Oakland Raiders of 1960, Otto played in 210 consecutive games, 308 all told, over a legendary career that took him to the Hall of Fame. Now Otto is tackling one of the most formidable opponents he has ever encountered: prostate cancer.


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Lea Spencer — "We can't learn from each other if we don't share"

Lea Spencer © UC RegentsLea Spencer was diagnosed with acute non lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 36. Fighting for a chance to see her son, then 16, graduate from high school, and her daughter, 10 begin middle school, the Sacramento woman sought out a clinical trial at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Now in her 50s, Spencer not only has watched both her son and daughter graduate from high school and attend college, she also has welcomed four grandchildren into the family.

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Pam Whitehead — "Cancer brought me to who I am today"

Pam Whitehead © UC RegentsPam Whitehead was 35 years old when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. In the years since, the Sacramento architect has become an active volunteer with the Lance Armstrong Foundation. She recently won a $5,000 award from the foundation that allowed her to start a fitness program for cancer survivors at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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