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Heart Matters

Keeping cancer drugs from causing cardiac damage

February 9, 2016 | Kathy Whitney

heart illustration

Illustration by Sara Tyson

In January 2011, Harriet Wilson of Hartsville, Tennessee, began to experience pain in her left side, under her rib cage. Her primary care physician ran some tests, ruling out heart problems and shingles. However, blood work revealed something ominous: elevated liver enzymes.

A CT scan helped diagnose the source of her pain: two advanced pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors with metastases to the liver. Wilson was told that her cancer, which likely began in the hormone-producing cells of the body’s neuroendocrine system, was inoperable and incurable.

“We were shocked. Our family was just devastated because it was so unexpected. I’ve worked all my life, raised two children by myself,” said Wilson, who had remarried a few years prior to her diagnosis.

“I was having a great life, playing golf and traveling and doing things I’d never had a chance to do. It was quite devastating for all of us to hear that diagnosis. I went to another doctor in another cancer center and it wasn’t the right fit. My children said we needed to find somewhere else.”

Read more in Momentum magazine