Sally Hargroves has always been active and full of energy, so when the Floridian became increasingly tired in 2010, she suspected something was wrong. Three different doctors told her it was just a side effect of being 65.
“I really didn’t want to believe that; it just didn’t sit right,” she said. “I was getting ready to believe it until one doctor just put her hands on her hip and she said, ‘Well what do you want me to do about it – you want me to do an ultrasound?’ And I said, ‘Sure, why not?’”
By the time Sally made it home from her ultrasound appointment, the doctor had left a frantic message on her answering machine.
“She was dumbfounded that something was actually in my liver,” she says.
A liver cancer diagnosis
An MRI performed the day before Thanksgiving 2010 confirmed that Sally had multiple tumors on her liver. After conferring with her local oncologist, she decided to seek further treatment and recalled advice she once heard from her physician father.
“He said, ‘Anybody who has cancer, I don’t care where you live in the world, you go to MD Anderson.’ So that’s what I did,” she says.
In January 2011, Sally traveled to MD Anderson and met with Jean-Nicolas Vauthey, M.D., who confirmed that she had cholangiocarcinoma, a type of liver cancer.
“Dr. Vauthey was fabulous,” she says. “He was always reassuring. He was very forthcoming. I appreciated him being direct. He was extremely personable.”
Sally’s liver cancer treatment
A month later, Sally returned to Houston for liver cancer treatment. Vauthey surgically removed the lobe with the tumors.
“Dr. Vauthey said I was very fortunate that my tumors were all in one lobe and he could just remove it,” she recalls.
Sally spent a week in the hospital, then remained in Houston for a month after discharge. She spent that time trying to come to terms with the major roadblock in her life
“The people that I met at MD Anderson were as much of the part of my cure as Dr. Vauthey, and he was the one who wielded the scalpel,” she says. “I didn’t have my friends to rally around me, so I had to depend on all these wonderful people. I’m just very, very grateful, and I feel very fortunate.”
It took about three weeks before all the pain from her surgery went away, and Sally couldn’t drive or lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for three months. After that, her life resumed its normalcy -- though now every day is a little sweeter.
“I was given a reprieve to be able to continue,” she says. “I just recently became a grandmother, so I’ve gotten the chance to enjoy and love my grandson. It just makes everything more colorful.”
Giving hope to others through myCancerConnection
Sally says the hardest part of her journey came before for her first appointment at MD Anderson. The statistics and stories she’d read on the internet had robbed her of hope.
“They made me think that I was dying and that I had this terminal disease,” she says. “I was absolutely petrified, and then I realized there was no reason to dwell on it.”
That’s why she now volunteers with myCancerConnection, MD Anderson’s one-on-one support program. She wants to offer newly diagnosed patients the hope she so desperately needed when she first turned to the internet for advice.
“I’d like to give them friendship and warmth,” she says.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.