The Will to Live

Innovative Treatments for Colon and Liver Cancer

Paula Stoll was told she had six months to live. That was four years ago.

The shattering prediction came soon after Paula, a very likeable woman who runs a popular pet sitting business in her hometown of Tipp City, lost 60 pounds for no apparent reason. She also had abdominal pain and nausea which eventually sent her to the hospital where a colonoscopy was performed, Paula’s first. After Paula was admitted to the hospital, two tumors were discovered and later removed. But there was another hard-to-face fact: Paula’s tumors were colorectal cancer that had metastasized to her liver, causing the six-month forecast.

“When I first heard the bad news, I was ready to give up,” she admits. “I thought it would be better just to accept what life had handed me. But my wonderful family — my husband, Scott, my two step-children and my siblings — said I should at least see if better news was out there.”

Better news was indeed possible when Paula turned to oncologist John Haluschak, MD. He told Paula that she did not come with an expiration date, she recalls with a laugh.

“Hooray to that! I decided to be proactive and fight this cancer,” says Paula, now age 56. “I resolved to do what it takes to get more time on this earth.”

It’s been a tough road, she admits, with nine surgeries and procedures as well as six rounds of chemotherapy.

“All of Paula’s physicians put together a plan to treat every area that needed attention,” says surgical oncologist James R. Ouellette, DO, who performed surgery to remove the primary rectal tumor in April 2011 after Paula had intense chemotherapy at Miami Valley Hospital North .

About 140,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with colon cancer each year, and roughly half will develop tumors in their liver. Keeping Paula’s liver, with its multiple tumors, as healthy as possible has been the goal of Dr. Ouellette and interventional radiologist Shannon Kauffman, MD.

“In an ideal situation we can remove tumors on the liver. But because the tumors in Paula’s liver are close to blood vessels and other organs, we need to use other advanced technologies,” says Dr. Kauffman, who specializes in minimally invasive, targeted treatments. “We are keeping her cancer at bay with everything cancer technology offers.”

“Plus the tumors were in multiple locations throughout the liver. So in 2012 at Miami Valley Hospital, I performed radio frequency ablation, using high-energy radio waves to help destroy her tumors,” reports Dr. Ouellette.

Dr. Kauffman performed an irreversible electroporation procedure using the NanoKnife®, killing cancer cells while healthy tissue remains unharmed. “In 2010, Miami Valley Hospital was the first in Ohio to start using the NanoKnife®,” says Dr. Kauffman.

Another powerful cancer treatment: a “Y-90” liver cancer therapy that has been used on Paula twice. “Y-90 is a very effective, well-tolerated procedure,” explains Dr. Kauffman, who performed the procedures. “Millions of small glass microspheres of radioactive yttrium-90, each bead about the width of a human hair, are injected into the artery of the patient’s liver through a catheter. The radiation destroys the tumor cells from within the tumor, with minimal impact to the surrounding healthy liver tissue.”

Dr. Kauffman adds that Paula has benefited from a multi-disciplinary approach throughout the Premier Health network, with so many healthcare professionals treating her with expert care. “For instance, without Dr. Haluschak treating Paula with chemotherapy, Dr. Ouellette and I couldn't have done what we did,” he points out.

Paula is profoundly grateful to have access to so many superior ways of attacking her cancer, which has gone into remission once and has surfaced periodically. Paula says she realizes that additional treatments will be part of her life. “Like other people get flu shots, I need a procedure or chemotherapy to control the cancer,” she says with a very admirable determination.

Paula adds that the communication between doctors and facilities within the Premier Health system has been excellent. “Everybody knows what’s going on and I don’t waste time or get aggravated getting someone up to speed. Most of all, I am so grateful for my wonderful physicians and other healthcare professionals for giving me the extra years of my life,” she comments.

Paula thinks she’s been on every prayer list in Ohio. “It’s working!” she says. 

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