State-of-the-art treatment at Forrest General Cancer Center saves patient
To commemorate National Cancer Survivors Day, one patient’s story about her challenging diagnosis and the treatment that saved her life
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (June 3, 2016) – Cancer. Imagine how it would feel to hear your physician say that word. Take a moment to feel the weight of it. Imagine being diagnosed with two different types of cancer at the same time. That is what happened to Rhonda Gamble in 2008.
Gamble said, “The first two diagnoses were hard. But as time went on with my doctors and family and co-workers, it got a lot easier. I came to realize that cancer is not a death sentence, which was my fear.”
Gamble’s fight began when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and lung cancer at the same time. That year, her thyroid was removed as well as the upper lobe of the right side of her lung. A few years later, in 2011, her lung cancer returned, and the two upper lobes on the left side of her lung had to be removed. Through this difficult process with 3 diagnoses and 2 recoveries, Gamble had a close support system of family and friends at her side.
“With the first two surgeries, my co-workers gave up their vacation time—and a lot of it – so that I would not lose pay. I didn’t have enough to be out for two surgeries. My church was very active as far as cooking and helping to get things done. My family lives right next door so they pitched in as much as possible. It takes more than just you, it’s important to have the support,” said Gamble.
After recovering from her second surgery, Gamble continued to follow her doctor’s recommendation to return to Forrest General’s Cancer Center for her follow-up appointments. In 2013, a cancer cell, which physicians had monitored since her first lung cancer diagnosis, had begun to move and grow. Because she lost so much lung tissue already, stereotactic radiosurgery was Gamble’s only option for treatment.
Stereotactic radiosurgery works by using four dimensional imaging to target abnormalities and treat them with high doses of radiation. SRS treatment plans minimize damage to nearby healthy tissue with their image-guided targeting, which would save the precious lung tissue Gamble had left. In spite of its name, stereotactic radiosurgery is a radiation treatment, not a surgical procedure.
Gamble felt some apprehension about the treatment. She said, “Originally, I was scheduled to have it done on the Coast, and not being familiar with their facilities and doctors made me more nervous. In the end, I came to Forrest General to the Cancer Center to have my treatment done, which was much more comforting.”
Gamble says that having stereotactic radiosurgery was simple and not at all painful. “I had 6 treatments. I came in, laid down, dozed off, and it was over. It was just really great. Unlike regular treatments, I experienced no sickness, hair loss, or nausea. Nothing. It was like I just came in to take a nap.”
Today, Gamble does anything she wants to do and lives an active lifestyle full of gardening, spending time at the gym, and going to work every day. But, for Gamble, these are not the most important gains. “This treatment definitely saved my life. My son will graduate from college in May, and I’ll be there to see it.”
On Sunday, June 5, 2016, cancer survivors, like Rhonda Gamble, and supporters in communities around the country will gather to celebrate the 29th annual National Cancer Survivors Day. Gamble says that she’ll not only be celebrating survivors, but also the researchers who make it possible to survive cancer. She said, “The research being done, leading to early detection and treatments, is phenomenal. Everyone who survives is a testament to the research, and there are more and more survivors every day.”
For more information about stereotactic radiosurgery or the Forrest General Cancer Center, visit forrestgeneral.com/cancer.
Forrest General Cancer Center
Forrest General Hospital's Cancer Center ranks among the largest and most sophisticated regional cancer treatment centers in South Mississippi and offers a place where patients can receive advanced care in a beautiful, compassionate environment close to home.