Reprinted by permission of Tim Erickson, reporter for The Chanute Tribune. This article first appeared in The Chanute Tribune, www.chanute.com, on Oct. 26, 2012.
Cancer cure 'miracle' for Thayer woman
Maybe it’s the land that healed her. Or her attitude. Or God and prayer. Or science. Or a doctor in Tulsa using his brain to figure things out.
Whatever one chooses to attribute her healing to, rural Thayer resident Patty Marshall is alive and well against all odds. In February of this year, PET scans showed a body riddled with cancer. Lungs, liver, bones, spine, arms and legs. Three months later it had virtually vanished.
At Tulsa’s Cancer Treatment Center of America®, the word miracle kept circulating around medical staff not given to such language.
“When I took my scans upstairs and showed the nurses (at the Treatment Center), there was not a one of them who didn’t just cry,” she said recently from home. “All the team came in, surrounded me and put their hands on me. They were just weeping, they were so happy.”
Walking around the Marshall farm/ranch east of Thayer, there is a sense of life about the place. Rows of vibrant flower beds, growing trees, active dogs and Smoke, her faithful horse.
There are also a few dead things inside the house. Twelve-point bucks and stuffed bobcats mounted on the wall and draped over a staircase rail. All dispatched with her gun. How many deer over her lifetime? She estimated 50 to 75. “We eat a lot of deer,” she said. “That’s one thing they told me with my cancer. To eat meat with no hormones.”
This latest bout with cancer is round two for Marshall. It first showed up in 2006, when she was undergoing unrelated surgery for a torn pectoral muscle. Underneath the knotted muscle, doctors discovered a pea-sized spot that turned out to be cancer. Additionally, they discovered cancer in two of her lymph nodes.
Marshall’s first experience with cancer doctors left her irritated and feeling like a statistic. “I finally told them I was a person, and wanted to be treated as one,” she said as stuffed animals watched quietly over our conversation. That search for a more compassionate treatment and second opinion eventually led her to Tulsa.
But even then it was not all roses.
“I only took one chemo treatment and had a really bad reaction,” she said remembering those days. “I almost died. There is such a thing as quality of life, and I said I wouldn’t continue if this was how it was going to be.”
Somewhere in her early struggles, perhaps the land and the animals came to her rescue.
“I didn’t care if I lived or died,” she said. “But one day my husband asked if I felt like taking a ride with him in the truck. We have a pasture west of Thayer, and it had cows calving. He drove up on this hill and shut the truck off.
“All these little calves came running up around the truck with their tails in the air. By the time I got home I forgot I was sick.
“I told Larry just the other day when we drove out to that pasture – and I still almost have tears when I think about it – that it was exactly what I needed when I needed it. I told him,” she said, “this is the Pasture Of Hope.”
After that, the tide turned. Marshall said she decided long ago that “cancer was not going to kill me.”
Her Tulsa doctors were able to prescribe a much gentler round of drugs and brought the cancer under control. “They put me on a hormone drug – because my cancer was hormone-based, and I did great. I had very little pain, and over these past years I have had only one prescription.”
By 2007, Marshall was in remission. She was planning on celebrating her five-year survivor mark when round two of cancer struck with a vengeance.
“They had kept it pretty much at bay,” she said, “but in February it went crazy.”
Her doctor’s response was to prescribe a somewhat unusual combination of Avastin and Abraxane. “The nurses (at the Cancer Center) looked at me odd and asked why I was taking these?” she said. “They deal with drugs all the time, so I finally asked him (Dr. Jaggernauth) why this combination?”
Jaggernauth told Marshall he was a scientist first, an oncology doctor next and lastly, a Christian. “I asked God and the Holy Spirit what to give you,” she recounted him saying, “and God told me to give you these drugs.”
Marshall said she has a similar outlook. “I am a Christian,” she said. “We are a Christian family . . . my sisters as well. I have had so much support, not from just the Thayer Christian Church, but from all over.”
She recounted the time when a young man with a mohawk haircut struck up a conversation about health and her cancer. He asked if he could pray for her in the middle of a restaurant. She consented, and wondered if perhaps he was an angel.
After checking back with restaurant staff, she realized he was a human moved by the Holy Spirit to pray for her healing. “I think that was a lesson for me not to be so judgmental,” she said in retrospect.
So prayer, faith, a smart doctor, cows and Marshall’s own determination to live may have all come into play with her most recent bout of cancer. Did she experience a miracle?
“Yes,” she said emphatically. “It is a total miracle. Even the doctors said it is. Most doctors would have said there was nothing they could do for me. But down there (in Tulsa) they don’t do that. It is a mind-body-soul thing.”
Beginning in August, her doctor prescribed a final round of highly-focused radiation treatment to remove the two remaining spots. The Stereotactic Body Radio Therapy (SBRT) process was combined with drug therapy to remove all traces of cancer from her body.
As the cancer cleared, Marshall resumed her plans to celebrate her five- year milestone as a cancer survivor. In September, 33 friends and family members surprised her and showed up at the Cancer Treatment Center in Tulsa. It was mob scene and celebration all rolled into one.
Is her remission permanent? Only time will tell. But in the meantime Marshall has a daughter’s wedding to finish planning, cows to tend to, deer to shoot, a horse to ride, grass to mow and flowers to weed.
“I have learned not to take life for granted,” she said. “It is very precious, and you never know when you’re going to be called out of this world. You need to live every day to the fullest. When you are staring death in the face, it’s kind of an eye-opener.”