Patient Leader Spotlight
My name is Tracey McQuillan Dedering. I am a mom to a crazy 10-year-old boy named Zachary and wife to my rock, Scott. I teach middle school Language Arts and am in my 18th year teaching 6th grade. I love to travel, read, and spend as much time as possible making memories with my little guy. I am also a colorectal cancer (CRC) “thriver”.
Two weeks after my 40th birthday in July 2014 I was diagnosed with stage IV CRC with metastasis to my liver, which might have been missed if a proactive doctor had not demanded a CT scan and a colonoscopy.
Doctors told me I was inoperable and terminal. With treatment they predicted I could live about 3 more years, saying that my liver would kill me before the cancer could. Thankfully, my incredible local gastrointestinal doctor who found my cancer also referred me to an amazing liver surgeon.
After about 2 months of treatment and numerous CT scans, my liver surgeon decided I was ready to try a resection. We knew it would be tricky as the surgery would take about 70% of my liver and my surgeon would be navigating weird vein anatomy to make things even more complicated.
My first liver resection was a fail. During the operation, my doctor found even more surface tumors on the remaining 30% of my liver that was going to keep me alive. He removed them and closed me back up. He said, “This is not a roadblock, but a detour.” I have lived by that motto ever since!
Over the next few months I had a PVE (portal vein embolism) done and when scans showed the PVE was working, we went for attempt two of my liver resection. SUCCESS!!! Followed shortly after by another successful operation, my colon resection.
As far as doctors and scans are concerned, I have been cancer free since my operation. I finished my last dose of clean-up chemo just before Thanksgiving in 2015 and am on my way to recovery.
In the meantime, I’m learning how to be a better advocate for my own care and for others. I even traveled to Washington, DC this month to share my story with members of Congress. I want them to understand how important it is to continue supporting the kinds of medical innovations that allowed my doctors to find my cancer when they did. After all, if it hadn’t been for that first CT scan and early colonoscopy, who knows when they would have found it? It is my hope that lawmakers continue to fight for early screening – and against harmful policies like the medical device tax – so cancer “thrivers” like me can access the treatments we need.
The next stop in my cancer journey, fixing some of the complication from the major surgeries and chemotherapy my body has endured during treatment. I am currently on a liver transplant list and hope to fix some of those issues for good.
While these may look like setbacks, I’m keeping myself in high spirits. These are just detours, not roadblocks!
Keep on keeping on friends!