M24 — June 2012 — Surviving Cancer: Best Wedding Gift
Intro: She was 33, getting married in a month and had a great job as a 9-1-1 dispatcher. Her world was good. But in an instant, things changed. Symptoms of a life-threatening disease hit with such force that she had to call 9-1-1 to get help from her colleagues. That event sent her on a journey no one expected.
Sound from 9-1-1 call
"I've not listened to the 9-1-1 call. I don't like to. It was a very bad night."
Dispatcher Larry Rogers was on duty the night his friend and colleague, Regan Roloff, called 9-1-1.
"I knew it was Larry. I knew it was going to get done wonderfully. I knew he was going to take care of me. He's kind of like a papa bear at work."
"A female said, 'Larry this is Regan. I need help.'"
"I'm hunched over. I can barely move, barely talk."
Within minutes rescue workers reached Regan and transported her to a nearby hospital.
"When I went home at 4:30 Regan was in surgery. I didn't sleep well that night. I found myself shaking."
By that time Regan's fiancÚ, Lonnie, a local sheriff's deputy, was at her side. He had been out of town preparing for their upcoming wedding. Both he and Regan figured maybe she had a bad ulcer. About a week later the doctor entered the room.
"I could tell right away when he walked in that this was going to be bad news. That was when he said, you've got cancer."
Cancer had perforated the wall of her stomach. There was a chance it had spread throughout her abdomen.
"I have a wedding in four weeks. I'm getting married in four weeks."
Regan and Lonnie were not going to let this disease destroy they're dreams.
"We weren't going to change the wedding date. We were going to go on with it regardless."
"Alright. Let's fix this."
They went to Mayo Clinic where oncologist Robert McWilliams and surgeon John Donohue lead the medical team who cared for Regan.
"We again started off with a look in the abdomen to see if there was any evidence of spread of the tumor away from the stomach itself."
There wasn't, but to make sure, Regan started treatment with chemotherapy.
"There are probably seeds or cancer cells out there that we can't see that the chemotherapy can treat. And the idea is if you give a little bit of chemotherapy before the surgery, you might decrease the size of the surgery you might have to perform."
One week after round one…wedding bells.
"Lonnie and I decided not to talk about it that day."
It was a day to celebrate love and their future.
"The wedding ended up being fantastic."
But afterwards their work began. Two more rounds of chemo. Then surgery, which involved removing two-thirds of her stomach. A section of small intestine was then attached to the remaining stomach, allowing her to eat with few restrictions. Even after surgery there was concern that cancer may still be present.
"Quite surprisingly, when the pathologist looked at all the slides, did not find any residual cancer."
With treatment behind her, Regan continues to get stronger. She's now cancer free and back at work with Larry and the others she says are part of her work family. And together with Lonnie, she looks towards the future.
"We want to start a family as soon as possible."
For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
Regan sees her doctors every three months for follow up tests to make sure she remains cancer free. Her story of triumph, determination and love serves as an inspiration to many.
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