Cancer - Marnel G.


In her early fifties, Toledo, Washington resident Marnel Groebner led an active life and thought she was in good health—except for nagging low back pain. Then, she suddenly began feeling pain in her lower abdomen so severe she couldn’t stand up straight. Thinking it was appendicitis, the emergency room doctor ordered a CT scan. That’s when a 9 centimeter mass was detected on her right ovary.

For the next 2 ½ years, Marnel felt caught up in a grueling dance. The steps included surgical removal of the ovarian tumor and the appearance of a second tumor next to her intestine. This one was inoperable, her doctors said. She went through three separate regimens of chemotherapy, with side effects, and 28 treatments of radiation therapy.

But the second tumor remained active. In fact, it wrapped itself around the intestine, which led to daily fevers and four bowel obstructions. Offered no further hope, Marnel prepared to say goodbye to her family.

In November 2014, she heard about a new clinical trial for “whole body hyperthermia.” With nothing to lose, Marnel flew to San Jose to meet Dr. James Lilja. After seeing her latest CT scan, Dr. Lilja recommended surgical removal of the tumor with a trial of Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC). Marnel responded, “Bring it on.”

Just before Christmas, Dr. Lilja and Dr. J. Augusto Bastidas surgically removed the tumor and three feet of Marnel’s intestine. After this, she was given HIPEC.

Today, Marnel’s cancer is in remission. To other cancer patients, she advises, “get involved in your care and be your own advocate.”

Her recovery from the latest surgery was long, but Marnel truly believes it and the HIPEC treatment, saved her life.

“Now,” she adds. “I’m enjoying my new dance partner … NED — No Evidence of Disease.”