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In June 2014, Jim traveled to Mayo Clinic and underwent surgery to remove almost all of the right half of his pelvis and the head of hip femur. When Jim returned to his home in Annapolis, Maryland, in August 2014, he still had plenty of recuperating left to do. Jim hasn't required any treatment beyond his surgery, and there's been no sign of the cancer returning. For 33-year-old Tara Brigham of Jacksonville, Florida, living with a heart condition since birth wasn't something that was going to get in the way of living an active normal life.
A Minnesota native, Tara was diagnosed with enlargement of the heart during a routine checkup when she was 1 year old. Tara's heart was monitored closely by her doctors at Mayo Clinic and later a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy specialist at the University of Minnesota. Despite the scare and a challenging recovery, Tara resumed her life, finishing high school, attending college and graduate school, and getting married. Tara is grateful that her transplant has enabled her to experience so much more of her life. Audra Popp has a rare tumor – anaplastic pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma, also known as anaplastic PXA.
Audra had 20 proton beam therapy sessions to try to destroy fast-growing cells possibly left behind after surgery.
After Audra's fourth surgery, her surgeon initially suggested radiation therapy, but that wasn't in the cards. After Audra's most recent surgery, her Mayo Clinic team had a new weapon in their arsenal – proton beam therapy. A registered nurse, Audra lives in Royalton, Minnesota – a three-hour drive from Rochester.
Audra had proton beam therapy in the summer – her favorite season – and took full advantage of her time in Rochester.
Raegan Cury didn’t worry at first when she developed a cough in early 2002 that wouldn’t go away. Even her husband, a pulmonologist, wasn't too worried, until she received a surprising diagnosis. Raegan, who lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida, had surgery to remove the cancer and woke up with just one lung, due to the extent of the disease. But they also headed to Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida to explore the possibility of lung transplantation.
A lung restoration center under construction on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus could change that by making many more donor lungs viable for transplant. Growing up on a farm in central Florida, Paige Douglas enjoyed a unique childhood, caring for a menagerie of animals, horseback riding, even barrel racing at local rodeos. But, when she was 10, Paige inadvertently hit her left knee while bouncing on a trampoline. Her knee became so sensitive that the slightest touch or inadvertent bump would “bring excruciating pain, sending me to the ground, screaming and crying,” she recalls.
Paige visited countless doctors near her home in Ocala, Florida, trying different medications, topical treatments and steroid injections. The team developed a customized treatment plan for Paige aimed at not only removing the cancer but saving her leg. To help bring awareness to others about sarcoma, Paige created “Team Paige,” an online support group.
Last fall Paige nominated the Mayo team for the Sarcoma Alliance 2015 Outstanding Care Award. Stewart Rosen was beyond anxious when he learned he had a tumor the size of a walnut by his right ear. Stewart noticed a change in his hearing in his right ear, and a friend had recommended he see an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist. Acoustic neuromas are noncancerous, usually slow-growing tumors that develop on the main nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain. Much to Stewart's surprise, his Mayo Clinic doctors told him they'd had a cancellation and could perform his surgery the next day.
Stewart continues to be checked to make sure his acoustic neuroma doesn't recur – a very slight possibility. Even though she's just 24 years old, Megan has had a lifetime's worth of trials and tribulations.
At the age of 21, just two months after Megan married her high school sweetheart, she was presented with another challenge. Megan would require an extended course of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before she could have surgery to remove it. Soon afterward, she was dealt another blow – one that must have been especially painful for someone who just completed cancer treatment.
Being diagnosed with bile duct cancer that eventually necessitated a liver transplant wasn't enough to keep Steve Woodford down for long.
Back home, Steve was evaluated by a gastroenterologist and diagnosed with bile duct cancer, rather than hepatitis C, in February 2014. Steve's doctor recommended he contact Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, to see if he could be evaluated and listed there, since the wait time for a donor liver might be shorter in the Southeast. After a thorough evaluation by the transplant team at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, Steve was placed on the liver transplant list in Florida.
Less than two weeks after his wife's breast cancer surgery and after being listed for a donor liver for five months, Steve received his new liver on Jan. Four months after the transplant, Steve and Maria hitched up their fifth-wheel trailer and set out to visit the five states in the U.S. Now, a year after Maria's breast cancer surgery and Steve's liver transplant, both are doing well and have mostly resumed their active outdoors lifestyles. Bridget Clausen refers to her seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren as "the love of my life." She treasures each of them and is proud to have a great-granddaughter named after her. At that time, Bridget was being treated for melanoma that had spread to several places in her body. The drug, now available under the brand name Keytruda, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration  in December 2015 as a first-line treatment for advanced melanoma. Bridget's journey to Mayo Clinic and the clinical trial that would be so important to her began in 2008 with a small, bothersome mole on one of her legs. After reviewing and rejecting several treatment possibilities — and engaging in much discussion and thought — Bridget and her oncologist in Fargo, North Dakota, agreed she would seek care at Mayo Clinic.


Although the clinical trial Bridget enrolled in was one of the first research studies to offer MK-3475, and she was among the first people to receive it, its roots stretched back more than a decade at Mayo Clinic. In December 2015, during one of her trips to Mayo Clinic, Bridget was pleased to have the opportunity to meet and spend time with Dr. With the success of her treatment in mind — along with the knowledge that experimental drug MK-3475 has become FDA-approved Keytruda — in January 2016, Bridget decided to hold off on additional treatments.
Bridget also is optimistic others may benefit from the progress made in melanoma treatment as a result of the clinical trial in which she participated. Bill McWhite was vacationing along the Texas Gulf Coast — normally, a time to relax — when his body refused to let him unwind. That incident was motivation for Bill — a pack-a-day smoker for 55 years — to quit smoking and to seek care with a lung specialist back home.
The Mayo Clinic Lung Screening Program begins with a consult with a nurse practitioner to discuss risk factors and review the patient’s smoking history to determine whether he or she meets program criteria. Depending on what the results show, patients may be advised to follow up in a year or to meet with a pulmonologist to discuss treatment options.
Lung screenings are for patients 55 to 80 years of age who have smoked a pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years or two packs per day for 15 years. The Mayo Clinic Lung Screening Program stems from a national lung screening trial in which 53,000 patients — all current or former heavy smokers — underwent either a low-dose CT scan or standard chest X-ray every year for three years. About 150 patients have completed the lung screening in Eau Claire since the program began last year, with five of the scans identifying lung cancer. A urologist who specializes in cancer surgery, he has spent his career focused on helping people receive the cancer care they need. Chondrosarcoma can be hard to manage, because it tends to affect bones in the upper femur and hip. Because of its complexity, this type of surgery frequently requires a multi-disciplinary team. He spent three weeks in the hospital recovering, followed by three weeks of rehabilitation.
Over time, with physical therapy, he was able to progress from using a wheelchair to a walker, and then to crutches.
Looking back on his decision to choose Mayo Clinic for his care, he has no second thoughts.
In fact, she says the heart transplant she received six years ago as a result of her condition has made her life even more fulfilling.
While she had not had any symptoms of a heart problem since birth, the enlargement was significant enough that her physician at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus suggested that a biopsy of her heart should be done right away.
Over time, she became increasingly symptomatic as her heart failure worsened, and Minnesota winters were especially difficult. She is currently a medical librarian at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, and she has been healthy and has led a fairly normal life in the six years since her transplant. She's had five craniotomies since 2001, and she has a scar from her right ear to the crown of her head as evidence. Buckner says a genetic alteration in the tumor that was removed in Audra's last surgery showed a mutation that makes the tumor cells more vulnerable to a new drug combination. She explored the area with tours of Mayo Clinic's historical homes and buildings, a walking food and history tour, a trolley tour and concerts by the river. She was a healthy young woman, athletic, a former gymnast, and her initial chest X-ray showed what looked like pneumonia.
Mayo Clinic transplants more organs than any center in the United States, and the Florida campus is one of the nation’s leading lung transplant centers. During Reagan's lung transplant in 2004, he washed her remaining native airways with a chemotherapy solution to try to prevent any remaining cancer cells from inhabiting Raegan’s newly transplanted lung. The next year, the lung allocation system changed, and the guidelines stated that outcomes for patients with Raegan’s disease were considered too uncertain to warrant transplant of a precious donor lung.
The center, now under construction, could make enough lungs available to enable transplants for people who currently don’t meet the waiting list criteria. She had synovial cell sarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer that typically occurs near the joints in the arm, neck or leg in young patients. Despite the 250-mile distance between her home and Jacksonville, Paige chose to undergo the treatments at Mayo.
According to the organization, the award is usually presented to one individual but Paige’s nomination moved the group so much that it honored everyone. And with the surgery he'd need to remove this tumor, Stewart knew that he'd lose hearing in his right ear.
That doctor detected a major difference in hearing between Stewart's ears and ordered an MRI to rule out a brain tumor. But a series of events, medical and otherwise, led her on a different path – an educational path that culminated with her sharing her surprising story at the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona on Jan. The chemotherapy cocktail was so powerful that Megan was cautioned not to kiss her new husband, as the side effects could be passed onto him. Doctors found Megan had a rare gene that causes Li-Fraumeni syndrome, which affects only about 400 people in the U.S. Still, Megan prefers to discuss the upside of her journey -- her supportive family, friends and Mayo caregivers who have encouraged her through her trials.
She has a passion for educating others about the gene that has changed her life — and she wants to be there for young adults or children who are going through the same thing. A South African native living in Utah, Steve is professional skydiving instructor, backpacker and canyon guide in Zion National Park.
He was told the cancer was inoperable and incurable. He was put on chemotherapy, underwent radiation therapy, and had a stent inserted in his bile duct, in an unsuccessful attempt to solve a drainage problem. Although Steve was placed on the waiting list in Utah for a liver transplant, the wait time in that region would be one to two years, and it was doubtful he'd survive long enough to get the organ he needed.
He and his wife, Maria, packed up their RV and temporarily moved to Jacksonville to be near Mayo Clinic, where he continued treatment as he awaited a new liver.
In fact, Steve attempted a world-record night skydive in Arizona over the 2015 Thanksgiving holiday, with 52 jumpers participating in the event. The joy of a namesake is especially sweet, because when Bridget learned her granddaughter was pregnant, she wasn't sure she would be here to meet the baby. Interestingly, the foundation of the drug's development began in a Mayo Clinic lab more than 15 years ago. Although no evidence of melanoma was left after the surgery, there was a small area on her right kidney that concerned her doctors.


She made the five-hour trip from her home in Nevis, Minnesota, to Rochester, where she met medical oncologist Roxana Dronca, M.D.
For four years, she drove to Mayo Clinic every three weeks to receive an infusion of MK-3475. After receiving 67 infusions and driving more than 37,000 miles in four years between Nevis and Rochester, she was ready for a break.
Instead, the 69-year-old Hayward, Wisconsin, man experienced a flare up of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, and found himself in the local hospital. The decision would ultimately lead his doctors to find that he had lung cancer, through a new screening program that identified the cancer at an early, treatable stage. If the patient and nurse practitioner opt to proceed, a low-dose CT scan is scheduled to check for early signs of cancer. The findings showed that patients who received the CT scans had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than those who received chest X-rays. The soreness lasted well beyond what he thought was normal, so he went in for an evaluation. The diagnosis: an uncommon type of cancer called chondrosarcoma that begins in cartilage around bones. Although he still relies on crutches, Jim has been able to resume his medical practice part-time. Not only do these return visits fill an important medical purpose, he says they also conjure personal connections from years gone by. She was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick. Tara went into ventricular fibrillation and was taken to the hospital where an automated external defibrillator, or AED, was used to restore her normal heart rhythm.
Audra is the first person at Mayo Clinic with anaplastic PXA to be treated with proton beam therapy. She also took advantage of classes offered at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Education Center, including tai chi, Reiki, nutrition, meditation and stress management. Mayo Clinic is collaborating with United Therapeutics, which has developed technology to sustain and rejuvenate donor lungs, making previously marginal lungs suitable for transplantation and extending the time lungs remain viable. After an exploratory surgery in 2001, doctors told her she had a neuroma, an area of increased sensitivity and pain that often develops after physical trauma to a nerve. She made a five-hour roundtrip five days a week for five weeks. “It was hard but I wanted to maintain a sense of normalcy for my family and I trusted this team … doctors who care, show compassion, and genuinely took time to know me as a patient,” she says. But Stewart, an accountant by day and violinist by night, worried that removing the tumor, an acoustic neuroma, might affect his ability to play music.
He says he is impressed with Megan’s resiliency and ability to understand what her treatment program would require. Curtis were invited to watch the game from a suite at the stadium in Glendale, Arizona, and a brief video of her story was shown on the big screen. Almost 8,000 miles and four months later, they have now been in 49 States after visiting Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. She decided to go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to see if doctors could offer any other options. It didn't appear to be related to the melanoma, and they were able to get rid of it with an ablation procedure.
The work his research lab did to identify that molecule laid the foundation for the drug's eventual development. The idea is to detect cancer early, before symptoms present and when the disease is most curable.
He had a positron emission tomography, or PET, scan that showed no spread of cancer outside the lung, so his doctors advised surgery, which Bill underwent in June 2015. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 157,000 people in the U.S. McWhite is exactly the person we’re trying to identify — somebody who had a very early stage lung cancer with potential to cure with surgery," Dr. Biles received his own diagnosis of an aggressive type of cancer, he knew how critical it would be to get treatment from someone with experience and expertise.
He's also back to enjoying past-times like playing the piano, visiting museums, clay shooting, fishing, boating and sailing. The thickened heart muscle can make it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body to vital organs. Unfortunately, her heart failure was progressing rapidly, and in June 2009, she received a ventricular assist device. She also has had three regimens of chemotherapy through the years and six weeks of radiation therapy at Mayo Clinic in 2007.
Murray and Perdikis followed, reconstructing her leg with tissue and muscle grafts from her calf. Today Paige has a 14” scar but complete use of her left leg.
Getting sick unexpectedly during a backpacking trip to Belize two years ago seemed like just another challenge he had to overcome. Along the way, Steve had surgery at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus for a bilateral hernia, which put him back three months in his plan to resume skydiving. But getting all of the cancer still typically calls for taking out the hip joint along with part of the pelvic bone, a surgery called internal hemipelvectomy. In addition, other experts such as vascular surgeons, urological surgeons, plastic surgeons and colorectal surgeons may become involved in extensive cases. Eventually, she had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator implanted to provide an immediate treatment for any future episode. The device allowed Tara to recover and be healthy enough to be put on the heart transplant list. He did his first jump since his transplant in October 2015, instead of July as he'd planned. Knowing how dangerous melanoma can be, though, Bridget began regular appointments with an oncologist and a dermatologist.



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