Patient Story: Gynecologic Cancer
Susan Briody’s Experience with IP Chemotherapy
“I cannot say enough…”
Susan Briody was 54 when she began having what she described as occasional gastrointestinal distress.
“I’d flown to Arizona to visit my college roommate and I just felt awful,” the Charlton resident relates. “It felt like the worst constipation, but it wasn’t that. I didn’t feel like eating and just couldn’t get comfortable. My roommate made me promise I’d see my doctor when I got home.”
Briody had a routine annual visit—albeit about six months late—already scheduled with Alan Albert, MD, the ob-gyn who’d been her primary care physician for decades. She didn’t mention her symptoms to him, however, dismissing them as constipation.
“But he ordered an ultrasound that showed what he said could be fibroids, and he referred me to a gynecologic oncologist he trusted,” she says.
“Well, the hair on my neck curled and my face turned red when I heard ‘oncologist,’” Briody continues. “But he explained that the surgeries he does are obstetrical, and that Susan Zweizig, MD, was the right person for me to see.”
Briody underwent additional tests, including a CT scan and blood work that revealed her CA 125, a tumor marker for ovarian cancer, was 8,000. The normal range is 14 to 20. She saw Dr. Zweizig on a Tuesday to review her test results; surgery was scheduled for 48 hours later.
“I had all the attributes of cancer,” Briody says, “but it wouldn’t be definite until they sent a biopsy to the lab during surgery.”
The diagnosis became definite, and Briody’s surgery became more extensive.
“They did debulking surgery to take out anything suspicious,” she relates. “I had a complete hysterectomy, they removed my appendix since it can harbor cancer cells, a layer of fat in my abdomen, they scraped organs to remove anything that looked like it could harbor ‘floaters,’ and they removed ten lymph nodes. When I woke up, I was told I had stage 3 ovarian cancer.”
Soon thereafter, Dr. Zweizig discussed IP chemotherapy with Briody.
“I had no hesitation about doing it,” Briody says. “She said it would be difficult and I might feel very sick from it, but I had no fear.”
Briody underwent the full six cycles of IP chemotherapy over a four-month period, taking a powerful antiemetic to prevent nausea.
“After four cycles of IP chemo, Dr. Zweizig said I was doing great, but said there was a risk I could get neuropathy in my hands and feet if I continued,” Briody says. “I’m an artist and was an art teacher, so she was concerned about that.
“I asked her if my chances of survival would dramatically improve if I did all six treatments and she said yes,” Briody adds. “I said I’d rather be an artist who can’t feel her hands and feet than a dead one.”
Briody says it took a full six months for her to feel better after treatment, but it’s been smooth sailing ever since. She has been cancer-free for 8½ years.
“I thank my lucky stars every day,” she says. “It’s too bad you have to have a life-threatening event to learn to live in the present and not take anything for granted. I cannot say enough to appropriately thank or describe what Dr. Zweizig and the UMass Memorial team have done for me and my family. They are just the best.”