Quality oncology care, successful treatment

Michelle Burke faced Stage IV colon cancer that had spread to her liver and lymph nodes. The mother of three turned to UC Irvine oncologists and surgeons to reverse the spread

October 10, 2010

Michelle Burke was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in November 2009. The 45-year-old Rossmoor resident and self-described soccer mom with three kids says she had experienced no symptoms. Yet, when discovered during a routine exam, the cancer was close to shutting down her colon and had spread to her liver and nearby lymph nodes.

She immediately sought advice. While doctors at one oncology center acknowledged the cancer’s seriousness, Burke says, they seemed passive in presenting treatment options.

“They didn’t know if they could help,” she says. That same day, she went to UC Irvine’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“The UC Irvine doctors said, ‘You have your whole life ahead of you. We’re not going to roll over to this,’” Burke recalls. “I got in very quickly to see Dr. Randy Holcombe; they dropped everything to help me.”

The treatment plan Holcombe, then-chief of hematology/oncology, prepared called for aggressive chemotherapy to shrink the tumors, followed by surgery to remove whatever remained of them.

“We began chemo within a few weeks,” Burke says. “Dr. Holcombe asked if I wanted to wait until after the holidays, and I said, ‘Nope, let’s get this started.’ I had been healthy as can be, and I wanted to get back to my life.”

The tumors shrank dramatically, and by April, Dr. David Imagawa had removed a large section of her liver and Dr. Michael Stamos had operated on the colon tumor. Subsequent testing has found no sign of cancer.

“I’m doing more rounds of chemo to make sure there are no cancer cells,” Burke says. “The entire team here has been incredibly supportive. I feel they’ve done everything possible to help me beat this.”

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