Alison’s Survivor Story

Posted on: Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Alison’s mom died of pancreatic cancer and her dad is a four time cancer survivor. She shares about their battles with cancer, and why she thinks the work being done at CGI is so important.

My name’s Alison Burchett, and I work in marketing. My dad, who’s now 81, is a three time survivor of colon cancer, and he’s also had prostate cancer. He was diagnosed the first time at age 35 and he jokes that he gets colon cancer every twenty years. So he had it at 35, 56, and 76. He’s planning to live for his next colon cancer, which will be twenty years from then.

My mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when I was in high school, and she actually passed away from it.

Some of my earliest memories are of my dad having cancer and him recovering from that. So I remember being a really little girl and not being able to sit on my dad’s lap because he had staples in his stomach – I was probably two or three at the time. And then the next experience I had of cancer was when my mom had pancreatic cancer. And she was diagnosed when I was seventeen, and she actually had a very brief but difficult battle with her cancer. She got very sick, very fast, and spent three of her last six months in the hospital.

And then my dad had colon cancer again when I was in college and I was his primary care provider. So dealing with my dad’s cancer was a little different because he always has a plan, and he feels like he’s going to beat it no matter what; he never considers the possibility of not making it. So with him it was a little different than with my mom because we knew that she wouldn’t survive.

At cancer genetics, we develop genomic tests that can help identify the DNA changes that occurred in the cell that led to cancer. And the reason that this is so cool is that it can provide accurate prognostic and diagnostic information. And so if you know the genes that changed to cause your cancer, then you can also figure out your overall outcome, sometimes what drugs you’ll respond well to. And knowing what drugs you’ll respond to helps alleviate unnecessary treatment. It also helps people plan better for how they’re going to do treatment with their doctors.

Watching my mom go through chemotherapy treatments that we knew were not going to respond well in her system was very difficult, because she got very sick and couldn’t really participate in the last six months of her life.

So I think the work we do here at Cancer Genetics is so important because we can provide that crucial information for patients and doctors so that people get the treatment that they’ll respond best to, and the most accurate diagnostic and prognostic information available.


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