Terri’s Story: Fighting Cancer with the Latest Therapies and a Positive Attitude

 A newer targeted therapy called a PARP inhibitor is helping Milford resident Terri Magliano and other patients improve their odds against recurrence of fallopian tube/ovarian cancer.

“Overall survival for fallopian tube/ovarian/peritoneal cancer has improved in the last 10 to 20 years because of newer medications and targeted therapy,” says Jack Basil, MD, TriHealth Women’s Services Gynecologic Oncology and the TriHealth Cancer Institute.

Terri was working at the Clinique cosmetic counter at Dillard’s in Northern Kentucky when she noticed a pain in her side when she twisted or lifted boxes. “I thought I had a pulled muscle,” she says.

She lived with it for several months but finally made a trip to TriHealth’s Bethesda North Hospital emergency room from her home in Milford in February 2016. That led to a CT scan and a follow-up biopsy that indicated something much more serious than a muscle pull: stage 3 fallopian tube cancer that had spread to the surrounding abdominal area.

“At first, it was shocking,” says Terri, then 55 years old. “I’ve always been very healthy. I never thought I would get cancer. I had just finished dinner with my parents and daughter-in-law when I got the phone call from my doctor. We were outside the restaurant, and my dad gathered us up and prayed for what was to come.”

A Mission to Get Better

Terri consulted with Dr. Basil, who performed a full hysterectomy at Bethesda North a week later.

“Dr. Basil is the best,” Terri says. “He has answers to every question, and if he doesn’t, he finds out. He’s a good guy. There have been instances when I asked ‘What would you do?’ He says, ‘If this were someone in my family, this is what I would do.’

“That’s helpful when you have a decision to make.”

A month after her surgery, she started two types of chemotherapy for four months. One went into a port near her shoulder to kill stray cancer cells throughout her system. A second port in her abdomen delivered chemotherapy directly to her abdominal cavity.

Dr. Basil notes, “Terri’s always had a great attitude. She’s always wanted to be as aggressive as possible.”

Terri acknowledges, “I had a hard course, but we had a mission to get rid of this and to get better. My husband, Dave, was in the Air Force. He’s a martial artist and took up Aikido when we lived in Japan for four years. He has a warrior-type attitude with a believer-in-Jesus bent to it. He swooped me up in that attitude. He’s been my rock.”

Terri also had the unfailing support of her parents, her adult sons and her daughter-in-law. Her best friend from high school came up from Alabama for every infusion treatment at Good Samaritan Hospital. “I also became friends with my nurses there,” she says. “They’ve all been amazing. It was social hour at the infusion center on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We had fun until I started feeling sick.”

Staying Strong

Terri returned to work at Dillard’s in late fall and embraced the excitement of planning for her son’s June 2017 wedding. During a routine check just a month before the wedding, Dr. Basil detected “one little spot on a lymph node in my abdomen,” Terri says.

“Recurrence happens in the majority of advanced cases,” Dr. Basil notes.

They delayed surgery until after the wedding, but on June 24, 2017, “we had the place in tears for the mother-son dance.”

Terri had surgery in July and received another round of chemo from July through December. Terri’s high school friend made the trip from Alabama monthly.

“Terri had a very good response to this second line of chemo, and her disease went away,” Dr. Basil says. “This made her eligible for a targeted therapy to inhibit the PARP protein in cancer cells responsible for repairing DNA and keeping the cancer cells alive.”

The PARP inhibitor, taken daily as a pill, destroys cancer cells but typically doesn’t affect normal cells. This lessens side effects such as fatigue and nausea. Terri has been on the PARP inhibitor since February 2018.

“Me and this medicine weren’t friends at first, but we became friends,” Terri says wryly. “I found out a few weeks ago that I’m cancer free.”

She enjoys being back at work and having regular customers express surprise and delight to see her. She’ll soon be attending a family wedding in Seattle, and she and her husband are saving up for a trip to Europe.

“If you’re a human being, cancer is a possibility,” Terri says. “You can fall apart and have a bad attitude or trust in God and see a purpose. It’s not easy. There are days when I feel like this is useless…Then, I get some retail therapy at TJ Maxx. That can jolt you out of a funk!”

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Tags Cancer , Innovation and Research , Women's Health