When Hope Was All She Had
Teresa "Tracy" Knox had a secret ambition to audition for the hit TV series "The Voice," but it was one of those things she just kept putting off. The busy mother of two teenagers had a lot on her plate, working full time as vice-president/IT director of Har-Co Credit Union, watching her kids play numerous sports and guiding her 17 year old daughter on her college search.
But on September 22, 2011, two days before her 45th birthday, Tracy's busy life took a drastic turn. After weeks of nausea and no appetite, Tracy went to an emergency department where doctors found a large mass in her abdomen that they recognized as malignant gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). Within a day, she was referred to a larger hospital experienced in treating unusual and aggressive cancer. There the news was even more frightening. "Essentially, I had one chance with the drug Gleevec that was known to reduce this type of tumor. No one would operate unless chemotherapy shrunk the tumor. After 11 months of no improvement on Gleevec, my oncologists were talking about life expectancy and 'getting my affairs in order.'" Cancer specialists at a second hospital were sympathetic to her case but couldn't offer her a more positive outcome.
A friend begged her to go for a third opinion at one more hospital where she worked in oncology. Enter UM St. Joseph Medical Center and Mark Fraiman, MD, liver and pancreatic surgeon at our Cancer Institute. Dr. Fraiman examined her records and said with confidence, "Not only will I operate on you, I am going to get all of it." And he did. In an operation that Tracy had been told would be eight to twelve hours, Dr. Fraiman carefully spent an hour and a half ridding Tracy's abdomen of a tumor the size of a baseball, and confirming that growths in her lymph nodes were benign and had nothing to do with her GIST diagnosis. "He saved my life when others had given up. It's as simple as that," says Tracy quietly. "Everyone who treated me at St. Joe's was exceptional. It is just amazing to me that a chance encounter with a friend at my daughter's volleyball game sent me to Dr. Fraiman and St. Joes. It truly seems like a miracle."
And that audition for The Voice? Well, that happened in the spring of 2012 when Tracy decided she was going to live life on her own terms. She didn't advance to the second round but, cancer free today, Tracy sees herself as a winner in every sense of the word.