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Opinion: How to beat cancer and spread the hope

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This is the story of Lisa King.

Well, it’s her story since July, when her life as she knew it changed dramatically.

I met King in volunteer work for American Cancer Society’s Cattle Baron’s Ball. King is an ACS Star of Hope this year to pass on the message of cancer survival. The Star of Hope is an apropos title for King, but I’ve learned she’s more than hopeful. She’s a fighter. Her fight started last summer when two cancer cells were discovered during a routine annual checkup.

Upon further testing, the situation was worse than expected.

“Cancer was everywhere,” she recalls. “It was all through my stomach.”

The only symptoms King says she experienced was abdominal pain, and she had thought it might be an ulcer.

King then traveled to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where doctors discovered it was Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Then she received a harsh diagnosis: “I was told I probably wouldn’t make it past Christmas. But they did have a new drug. Only five people had taken it.”

King describes her treatment platform as a cocktail called “fenfurynox” comprising seven elements for chemotherapy. She says she didn’t give much thought to the risks involved with such a young drug. “I didn’t really look at it as a risk because the alternative was to die. At that point, you just look for anything.”

Heavy dosages began, sending King into long hospital stays during a tough chemo period. She remembers her first day in chemo watching her roommate eat Chinese food and being surprised that she would be able to eat normal food.

The next months involved hospital stays for four days every other week, a frequent sore throat that also brought her into hospital care, one 23-day stint without eating and a blood clot that developed on her neck. “It’s the cancer that you’re fighting, but there’s always something else,” she says.

But she was winning the fight. As test results came back, the levels of cancer present were diminishing. Her first “cancer score” at Mayo was 16,000; last month, her score was 14. King finished chemo six weeks ago.

“Normally, a person would die as bad as I had it. I know I’m a miracle. The chemo, and God and my faith have healed me,” she says. “But there are a lot of things to work through.”

For one, the pancreatic cancer could rear its ugly head again in 12 months to 18 months, according to her doctors. King and her medical team – the nurses on seventh floor at St. John’s Hospital are incredible, she says – are searching for the elusive cause of her cancer. No one in her family has had cancer. She acknowledges that she was taking HCG diet shots a year before her diagnosis, but she’s not sure if there is a connection. “I am a study for that at Mayo right now,” she says.

King is now spending her days focused on enjoying life, her daughters in particular, and rebuilding her strength and endurance through walking. A former private banker at Metropolitan National Bank, she’s not concerned about employment. “The things that used to be so important aren’t that important anymore – like work, working all the time,” she says.

The King family – she’s married to Steve King, a golf pro at Rivercut Golf Course – has a June trip to Mexico planned to celebrate her life.

From her life-changing battle the last 10 months, King has come away with this advice for cancer patients:

• Fight. “My dad said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t stop fighting.’ I went into fighting mode,” King says. “I have two daughters, and they kept me going and still do.”

• Don’t read just anything online. Negativity permeates, King warns. “You need to stay focused and positive and in hope,” she says. King suggests finding a few trusted sources, institutions and individuals, who can feed you quality, factual information at the times you need it.

• Take charge of your body. Don’t just listen to and accept medical advice. “They are the doctors and nurses, but you know your body,” she says. “Don’t just take their word for it.”

• Faith. King says she has faith in God. “He’s never let me down. I just had to know that this is real life. This is something I’ve got to go through.”

• Create an outlet. King maintains a blog at She has received phone calls from people across the country to talk about fighting cancer. “It’s just another story of hope,” she says.

Springfield Business Journal Editor Eric Olson is co-chair of the Cattle Baron’s Ball publicity committee. He can be reached at[[In-content Ad]]


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