Women often forget about caring for themselves because they are busy caring for their families. Linda Fleming is no different – as a mom to four kids, two step kids, a wife, and a grandmother to 13 grandkids – Linda's schedule was busy.
When Linda and her husband, Val, went on vacation, Linda felt exhausted. About a week back from her vacation Linda began to feel nauseous.
"I thought it was the flu at first," said Fleming. "The bottom of my feet and the inside of my hands began to itch. My friend, Vicky Barbara, who is a nurse, encouraged me to see a doctor immediately. I went into urgent care where they prescribed anti-itch medication and antibiotics for a urine infection."
When Halloween came around, Linda still wasn't feeling well.
"The next day, I went into work, and Vicky, took one look at me and rushed me over to the Emergency Department at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center where I saw Dr. Mehrdad Saliminejad, medical director, Advanced Endoscopy Services, who cared for me when we suspected it was just pancreatitis and followed me through my journey," said Fleming. "I had bloodwork done and it showed my pancreas and liver numbers were off the charts. The numbers were so high that the care team asked if I was alcohol dependent. My daughter and I laughed since I don't drink alcohol."
After being treated for pancreatitis and getting her numbers lowered, Linda was released from the hospital. In December 2019, Linda returned to the hospital again with the same symptoms she had been experiencing – exhaustion, bloating, and feeling full. She was admitted to Long Beach Medical Center, where she saw Ronald Wolf, M.D., liver and pancreatic surgeon, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center. He ordered a computed tomography (CT) scan to understand what was causing Linda’s ailments.
"I reviewed the scans with Linda and explained that I saw a lesion at the head of her pancreas and wanted to collect a biopsy and have an MRI done," said Dr. Wolf. "Seeing the lesion and the symptoms she was experiencing, I believed there was a high likelihood of cancer. I talked to Linda about considering the Whipple Procedure, which is often used to treat pancreatic cancer confined to the head of the pancreas. I wanted to give Linda the best possible outcome."
The Complex Pancreatic & Liver Cancer Program at Long Beach Medical Center offers advanced minimally invasive surgical options for both primary and metastatic cancer – one of the only programs of its kind in the region.
When Linda met with Dr. Wolf before the surgery, it was confirmed she had Stage 3 pancreatic cancer. The cancer had affected five lymph nodes surrounding the pancreas. Post-surgery, Linda saw Nilesh Vora, M.D., medical director, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center, and underwent six months of chemotherapy and a couple of months of radiation. At the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, the highly skilled and experienced team of oncologists, surgeons, nurses, and social workers take a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care.
Through multidisciplinary treatment planning conferences, specialists review new or difficult cases and develop treatment plans suited to the specific needs of each patient. Personalized care developed for each patient is a clinical reality at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute.
"With the type of cancer Linda had, many people don't complete the chemotherapy because it's so intense and causes nerve damage," said Dr. Vora. "Linda was a rock star throughout the whole journey. And because I wanted to ensure the cancer did not return, I advised her to go through radiation. Since completing her treatments, Linda is doing great."
Four years later, Fleming is cancer free. She has CT scans, and blood work, and sees Dr. Vora every six months to ensure there is no cancer recurrence.
"My kids and husband were great for moral support," said Fleming. "Dr. Wolf and Dr. Vora were very supportive throughout the whole journey. Whenever I had a question, they would take the time to explain what was going on, making the process so much easier. I can’t recommend enough to anyone facing a possible cancer diagnosis to see Dr. Wolf and Dr. Vora because of the excellent care and support they gave me.”