Dorothy Miles is glad to be back in the dress department at Dillard's, it was perhaps the long hours on her feet that took its toll... and saved her life.
"My ankles were swelling and I thought rough day on the job at work standing," she says.
But when the swelling moved up her legs, Dorothy was concerned enough to go to the doctor.
"She felt in my ab area." Dorothy laughs as she explains, "and she noticed I had a hardness. I said that's what I want!"
Dorothy had become a regular at the gym, on the treadmill and lifting weights, proud that her abs were getting hard. But turns out, that was no sign of a ‘6 pack'.
"This was a huge tumor from rib cage to pelvis, all the way from the back of the body, stuck to everything. It was massive." That's how Dr. Sharmila Dissanaike describes Dorothy's tumor that had grown to be 6 pounds, the size of a small baby or a Thanksgiving turkey. But, the doctor was quick to add that a bigger concern than the size, was the location: It was pancreatic cancer. Dr. Dissanaike says, "It is a lethal form of cancer, usually doesn't present with symptoms."
Pancreatic cancer is considered one of the deadliest cancers because tumors there often grow for some time before it is diagnosed.
But there are clues...
"I was scared", Dorothy says. "I was surprised because all the time I thought I was just getting in shape."
Dr. Dissanaike describes how serious Dorothy's tumor was.
"The world record for a pancreatic tumor is 24.5 centimeters. Dorothy missed it by that much - 2 milliliters."
Now, after 2 surgeries this summer and just one dose of radiation to be sure…
Doctors think they have killed the cancer, and saved what is left of Dorothy's pancreas
"Even though we took this humongous tumor out, it had not gone anywhere else. So technically we cured her with surgery. What a huge blessing, because we caught it before it spread."
Lucky for Dorothy that her swollen feet took her to the doctor.
And that's the real message here. We get caught up in the holidays with a million things to do, but if there is a symptom that is nagging at you now, take it to the doctor. Get it checked out to find out what it is. Don't put your health on hold til after the holidays. This should be at the top of your to do list.
Dr. Dissanaike adds, "Very often when I see patient with cancer, if they think back, they can pretty much pinpoint when things started to happen. And that's a shame because in few months we might have had a window of opportunity there."
But thanks to early detection, Dorothy can enjoy the holidays with a new reason to get back into shape.
She says, "Every time I get on the treadmill and lift weights, I'm excited that I was given another day. Every day is a blessing. That's for sure."
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