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“I’m Still Here”

Posted on December 16, 2021 in Oncology

Sevierville Woman Is Cancer-Free after Treatment at Fort Sanders Regional

Brenda and Ted ChandlerSevier County resident Brenda Chandler is thankful to the surgical team at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center for saving her life. After a health scare that led to surgery earlier this year, she is back at home and feeling great.

Chandler recalls feeling nauseated one day last May and knowing that something wasn’t right. “I couldn’t keep anything down, and my head was pounding.”

As her husband Ted began hurriedly driving her down Chapman Highway, Chandler says she suddenly felt strongly that she should go to Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. “I don’t know if it was intuition or what, but I felt that’s where I needed to be. Now, I’m sure it was divine guidance that took us there.”

Headed for Cancer Surgery

Chandler arrived at Fort Sanders Regional’s emergency department where she underwent several diagnostic tests. A CT scan revealed a blockage in her duodenum, the part of the small intestine that connects to the stomach. An upper endoscopy by the gastroenterology team confirmed a cancerous tumor in her duodenum was causing the blockage.

David Roife, MD
David Roife, MD
Board Certified in General Surgery, Surgical Oncology

Chandler was scheduled for surgery. Her physician was David Roife, MD, a surgical oncologist at Fort Sanders Regional who specializes in gastrointestinal cancer surgery, specifically in the liver and pancreas.

“Surgical oncologists go through extra training to provide the highest quality oncological surgery available including high-level, complex procedures,” Dr. Roife says. ”More importantly, we are trained in the knowledge of multidisciplinary care of our cancer patients, so we can coordinate other types of care besides surgery that a patient may need.”

A Life-Saving Procedure

Dr. Roife performed a procedure called a “Whipple” or pancreaticoduodenectomy. In this surgery, the end of the stomach, end of the common bile duct, gallbladder, head of the pancreas and adjacent duodenum are removed, and the remaining small intestine is reconnected to all of the cut ends. It’s a complex surgery that typically only specialists perform. Dr. Roife says, “We are a high-volume pancreatic surgery center and perform pancreas surgeries on a regular basis. Research has shown that patients have better outcomes when their surgery is done at a high-volume center.”

“I won’t tell you I wasn’t afraid,” Chandler recalls. “But I was at peace. Whatever would happen was in God’s hands.”

Chandler says her doctor and surgical team could not have been better. “Dr. Roife was very attentive and gentle,” she says. “At one point, he drew a picture on the board of what would be done with my stomach. He was compassionate, and I couldn’t ask for a better blessing of man.”

Brenda and Ted ChandlerIn the Nick of Time

The final pathology results showed a completely resected (surgically removed) duodenal cancer that did not spread to any lymph nodes, so Chandler was able to forego chemotherapy. Dr. Roife says, “The procedure saved her life. Having an outcome like Mrs. Chandler’s has made the past decade of training worth it.”

According to Dr. Roife, this type of cancer can metastasize in the liver, lungs or lymph nodes. If it had spread, physicians could treat her symptoms but not cure the cancer. “It was in the nick of time that we saw her,” Dr. Roife says. “Mrs. Chandler was fortunate in that her symptoms led her to seek medical care at a point when it was still able to be resected. Oftentimes cancer that develops in the region of the pancreas or duodenum is ‘silent.’ Typically by the time symptoms arise, it has already spread elsewhere or has already grown too big to remove surgically.”

“My procedure went great and I’m still here,” Chandler shares. “Everyone was so cordial and kind, and they cared – that’s what makes dealing with a sickness bearable.”

In her follow-up CT scan and blood work six months later, she showed no signs of disease.

Chandler reflects on the friends, family, neighbors and church members who brought meals, sent cards and lifted her up in prayer. “I want to thank everyone, individually and collectively, who helped me and prayed for me. I have been blessed tremendously,” she says. “There comes a time when you don’t realize how blessed you have been until something drastic happens. God is just so good.”