Lynda Pasco's Story
Multidisciplinary care rescues Lynda Pasco from stage 3 colon cancer.
Lynda Pasco had her first colonoscopy at age 62—as a favor to her primary care physician.
“I had put it off a few times,” says Lynda. “But my primary care doctor, Pamela Sloan, kept telling me I needed to have one. So I finally had it done in January of 2009.”
The doctor who performed the colonoscopy expressed some concerns to Lynda and her husband, Gary. Those concerns were confirmed the next day by Dr. Sloan: Lynda had colon cancer.
Dr. Sloan immediately put Lynda in touch with doctors at the Wilmot Cancer Center, part of the University of Rochester Medical Center. Lynda’s case was reviewed by Wilmot’s Multidisciplinary Tumor Board, where doctors from every cancer discipline—medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgery and pathology—all met to discuss her case.
A team approach to treatment.
Lynda’s cancer was well advanced. It was a stage 3 tumor at the junction of the colon and the rectum. A team of doctors—including surgeon Dr. Jenny Speranza, medical oncologist Dr. Alok Khorana and radiation oncologist Dr. Alan Katz—met with Lynda and worked to identify the best course of treatment.
“They considered all the different treatment options,” says Lynda. “They could shrink it first with radiation, wait a month and then do surgery. But they recommended doing the surgery first. We had total confidence in their advice.”
Dr. Speranza explained that she would perform the surgery laparoscopically—with small incisions that allow faster recovery after surgery. But if need be, she had a backup plan of traditional open surgery.
“When Dr. Speranza explains something to you, she leaves no doubt in your mind.” says Lynda. “My husband is a pilot, and he calls her ‘Top Gun’!”
Dr. Speranza removed an 8-inch section of colon, along with 46 lymph nodes—six of which proved to be cancerous. Lynda was up and walking again the very next day. Four days later, she returned to her home in Brockport.
The next steps in beating cancer.
Because the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, Lynda would need further cancer treatment. Dr. Khorana prescribed nine chemotherapy infusions, one every other week. Lynda would spend two hours in the Wilmot Cancer Center Infusion Center. Then, she would be outfitted with a fanny pack that continued her chemotherapy treatment for another 46 hours. This allowed her to go home while still undergoing her infusion therapy.
“Dr. Khorana was very clear with me,” says Lynda. “He said, “I hope you decide to do this.’ I did exactly what he asked me to do. I had no doubts that it was all in my best interest.”
After her chemotherapy was finished, Lynda had a month off from treatment. Then she had a 28-day regimen of oral chemotherapy and radiation therapy, directed by Dr. Alan Katz. The last three days provided an intense boost of radiation directly to the surgical area.
“I would go to work, then go to my radiation appointment, then come back and eat lunch,” says Lynda. “Life was going on. It was like I kept my cancer in a box. I would open the box to get treatment, then close the box when I left.”
Getting her life back.
With her cancer treatments completed, Lynda began a regular schedule of follow up CT scans. Now three years out from surgery, Lynda shows no signs of cancer. She is full of energy, leading a more active life than many people 20 years younger.
“I do Curves, and walk four miles a day,” she says. “I’m also a member of the Retired Teachers Hiking Group. We go on hikes throughout the area every Tuesday morning during the nice parts of the year.”
Lynda continues to work for Eastman Dental, where she provides services in the developmentally disabled adults’ clinic at Monroe Community Hospital.
“When I learned I had cancer, I never broke down and cried,” admits Lynda. “I thought, this is what we have to do. We just have to take care of it.”
“At Wilmot, I knew that if there was any problem, it would be taken care of. Everyone there is tops in their fields. And that put my mind at ease.”
Lynda continues: “I just want to credit everyone at Wilmot. They do their job well.”
And with those words, Lynda begins to cry.