“It all started with one of my sons reminding me I was over 50 and should get a colonoscopy. I thought it would be a simple screening - little did I know colon cancer which had spread to my liver would be found.”
This is the story of Shelly Petersen. A wife, mother, grandmother. A woman of faith who looks for the blessings in life. Even the blessings in cancer.
Shelly and her husband, Robert, were high school sweethearts. “We grew up right down the road from each other and started dating in school,” said Shelly. “We lived in Duncan many years ago but left to live in Healdton and Ardmore. We came back in 2006 when Robert became President of First Bank & Trust Co.” Shelly was very busy through the years raising six children (one daughter and five sons) and now being involved in the lives of her 15 grandchildren.
In 2015, after a routine colonoscopy screening, they received the news there was cancer with eight tumors on her liver. Her surgeon, Dr. Che Miller, sent her to a liver surgeon at OU Medicine who didn’t feel there was anything they could do. “He did say something that was a reality check for us,” said Shelly. “I asked how long I would need to take treatments and he said ‘for the rest of your life.’”
Shelly and Robert returned home and met with Dr. Miller who explained he had taken her case to the Oncology Tumor Board (a group of physicians and other healthcare providers with different specialties that meet regularly to discuss cancer cases and share knowledge. The board's goal is to determine the best possible cancer treatment and care plan for an individual patient.) Dr. Jose Najera (Medical Oncologist at the Taylor Le Norman/McCasland Cancer Center) had many ideas on how to treat her cancer. After much prayer, Shelly knew this is where she needed to be.
Shelly began her battle with eight months of aggressive chemotherapy after which she would go to MD Anderson to have a liver resection (to remove 75% of her liver to encourage it to regenerate healthily). “Dr. Najera completed an internship at MD Anderson, and the doctors were extremely complimentary of him and his skills,” said Shelly. Though she incurred a setback and returned to Duncan for six more weeks of treatment, she eventually had the surgery. It was during this time that Robert was diagnosed with prostate cancer. “Robert has finished his treatment and is monitored every three months by his physician,” shared Shelly.
After surgery, Shelly completed an additional eight months of aggressive chemotherapy and went ten months with clean scans. Unfortunately, in June 2017 her cancer came back in her lungs and lymph system. Since then, she has received a more targeted treatment. “I had genetic testing done to help tailor my treatment,” said Shelly. “I currently have a treatment every week.”
Through all this, Shelly has found blessings. “That we have this Cancer Center and the amazing and compassionate staff is a blessing,” said Shelly. “If people realized the high caliber of talented physicians we have they would never leave town for care. The team mentality of all the physicians - surgeons, urologists, oncologists - all working together to care for you.”
The Cancer Center staff has been a blessing to Shelly too. “When I was told my cancer had returned, Janada (a CCSO nurse) came over and prayed with me,” smiled Shelly. “When I come to the Center I am Shelly, not a number.”
Shelly wished to share the following thoughts:
Get screened. Colon cancer if caught early is one of the most curable cancers.
Don’t lose hope. When the word cancer is heard, it is thought to be a death sentence. New therapies are being discovered every day - be hopeful and don’t give up.
See the blessings that do come into your life - new friends and personal growth. I feel my faith has grown which has strengthened me.
Know that right here in Duncan we are blessed to have incredibly high quality of care!
Shelly is continuing to fight her cancer with an amazing spirit. Her smile and warm heart are a joy to all who encounter her. Shelly is a woman who can take the darkness of her situation and find the blessings - what a lesson for us all.