EDITOR UPDATE:

Sadly, with broken hearts, Saundra DeMey-Forrest lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in early November, 2020. She was an inspiration and shining light to everyone who knew her. Originally given just a few months to live, she defied the odds and survived almost 6 years. Her legacy, spirit, and memory will live in the hearts of everyone who knew and loved Saundra.

Following was her original story of positive outlook.

SAUNDRA DeMEY-FORREST

In The Face of No Hope, A Second Chance

Written By Debra Gelbart
August 10, 2017

In The Face of No Hope, A Second Chance

Saundra DeMey-Forrest was facing the scariest crisis anyone can confront. She had been told by a surgeon that her Stage 4 pancreatic cancer couldn’t be cured, that she should “go home and get your affairs in order.” Then, an oncologist told her that her cancer was so advanced, she would have no quality of life if she were treated with chemotherapy. But Saundra refused to accept what she was hearing. She went home and searched online for “Stage 4 pancreatic cancer research trials.”

That simple act of not giving up, of thinking beyond conventional advice, has helped her stay alive far longer than the three months or so the doctors had predicted in January 2015 when she was diagnosed. Today, she’s feeling good, traveling, enjoying time with her husband Jeff, her grown children and five grandchildren, and showing no sign the cancer is progressing. Now her motto for her life, she says, is “No cure, no hope, no problem.”
The Study

In February 2015, she was enrolled in a clinical trial sponsored by the HonorHealth Research Institute, (HRI) and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) for 25 patients with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer who had had no previous treatment for advanced disease. The pilot study included a combination of three chemotherapy drugs that had not been combined before to treat pancreatic cancer. After just nine weeks, Saundra’s scan showed dramatic improvement. Over time, her tumors continued to shrink and her tumor marker—one way doctors and researchers assess the extent of a particular cancer—normalized.

Now, she has what’s called “stable” disease, with the tumor marker still in the normal range and a few tiny spots on her pancreas and liver that show no evidence of being active. “The hope is to keep me alive long enough to find a cure,” she said. She said her medical oncologist, Erkut Borazanci, M.D., clinical investigator at HRI and medical director of the institute’s Early Cancer Detection Program, told her the longer she can hold on, the more treatment options she might have.

The results of that study are truly encouraging, said Gayle Jameson, R.N., MSN, ACNP-BC, principal investigator of this study, a nurse practitioner and associate investigator with HRI. She explained that 71 percent of patients “experienced a favorable disease response.” Of the 24 patients who the research team was able to evaluate in the study, two had what’s called a “complete response,” meaning they had no evidence of disease when they had their best response to treatment.

Another 15 patients, like Saundra, had what’s called a “partial response”—a reduction by at least 30 percent in the size of their tumors and a falling tumor marker. Four patients experienced no change in their disease and three experienced an advancement (called “progression”) of the cancer.
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