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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Susan Turner

Sarcoma, soft tissue - Grade 2

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.

View CTCA treatment results for prevalent cancers we treat

My story

One morning in 2013, I was in the shower and felt a knot in my genital area. It didn’t feel right, and I knew it didn’t belong there. My doctor near my home in Knoxville, Tennessee, dismissed it as a diverticulum in my urethra and referred me to a urologist. I didn’t have any diagnostic tests.

The urologist told me that the knot was a tumor that was barely attached to the inside of the vaginal wall. He surgically removed the mass. Three days later, he called to tell me that the pathologist who had examined the tissue noticed that one of the samples appeared abnormal. They sent the samples to an academic medical center, where pathologists confirmed that I had leiomyosarcoma. I was 47 years old at the time.

Cancer had always been my top fear in life. I had seen loved ones pass away from the disease. Leiomyosarcoma is a rare and aggressive cancer, and I was scared. When I received that call, I thought I was going to die.

Deciding not to give up

I had seen commercials for Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) and decided to call a couple of weeks after I had been diagnosed. I was scared to travel out of state for treatment, but the representative I spoke to continued to provide support for me during those first weeks. She called me in the evening of the day I’d left the radiologist’s office in tears. I felt like giving up and I prayed for a sign of hope. When I received her call later that evening, I knew that was my sign, and I was ready to travel to CTCA® for an evaluation.

I stayed at the Chicago hospital for four days with my caregiver. I was nervous and scared when I arrived but was put at ease the moment I stepped through the doors. The staff at the front desk, the doctors, nurses and the cafeteria workers—everyone I came in contact with—was full of compassion. I was happy with the medical process, too. Obtaining test results, hearing the prognosis and treatment options, and having the space to make my own treatment decisions were all so different to what I’d experienced before. Nothing was forced on me.

A light at the end of the tunnel

I returned to CTCA for treatment, staying for six weeks to undergo radiation therapy. Although I traveled alone, I never felt alone. CTCA quickly became my second family. Everyone knew me by name, and I knew everyone by name. I developed friendships with the staff that I still have to this day.

I was able to get through the treatment with minor side effects, thanks at least in part to the assistance from my naturopathic oncology provider and my dietitian. I kept active, going on long walks at the recommendation of my nurse. After about the fourth week of radiation, I experienced some burning during radiation, which my doctor had warned me was likely. The problem lasted for a little while after treatment, but gradually subsided. My dietitian helped me avoid rich foods to help reduce those side effects. I was tired, but keeping active and following a healthy diet strengthened me. I also found support through mind-body medicine. My therapist helped me tackle the emotional challenges the cancer posed for me.

Being at a place that treats the whole person—body, mind and spirit—was very healing. I had never experienced anything like that with medical care before. The approach gave me hope, and helped me put my best foot forward. The compassion I felt from my care team at CTCA helped me find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Lasting benefits

Five years after finishing treatment, I am feeling good. It took me a while to get there, but I’m there. I return to CTCA every six months for follow-up visits, but so far, there are no signs of cancer. I have returned to work and also the activities I enjoy, like landscaping, hiking and traveling.

This year, 2018, I am excited to attend Celebrate Life® and see my name on one of the Trees of Life. I look back on the last five years and think if I stayed in my hometown for treatment, I don’t know if I would be the same person I am today. Before cancer, I was bitter. Now, I just want to live my life and do for others what I can. To me, the side effects of cancer will never totally leave you because you are never really the same mentally and physically. But for me personally, it changed my entire life. It made me a better person, more compassionate. It has allowed me to help a lot of people, like when I share my story with other patients through Cancer Fighters® Care Net.

My cancer journey has taught me that I am a strong person. I was able to fight my biggest fear. And I did it surrounded by people who really cared about my well-being—my care team at CTCA, my family and my caregiver at home. They all helped me get through this difficult time, and it continues to help me today.