From Dr. Pollock:
I am the Director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and a practicing cancer surgeon and laboratory researcher focusing on sarcoma which is a rare form of malignancy involving connective tissues such as muscle, fat, bone, cartilage, etc. My life took an interesting turn shortly after having dinner out one Thursday night just before Christmas in 2016. I was unable to sleep that night due to acute abdominal pain and thought I had gotten food poisoning. I worked for part of the next day but continued to feel very sick and so went home at mid-day, something I had never done before! That evening I was unable to hold down any oral intake and didn’t get any sleep, so the next morning I went to the OSU Emergency Center. Tests were run and it was determined that I had a pneumonia and was severely dehydrated. I was hospitalized for several days, rehydrated, was discharged and scheduled for follow-up radiology studies for after the holidays to make sure that the pneumonia had resolved.
I did fine through New Year’s Day, but began feeling sick again in the second week of January. I was feverish, had no appetite, and felt extremely weak almost all the time. I kept to my admittedly very strenuous work schedule (doctors aren’t always the most compliant patients!), and then went for my follow-up scans late one evening after work. By the time the scan was done, there were no more radiologists on site and so I decided to go home and look at the scan myself. My first thought in seeing the scan on my home computer was that it had been mislabeled because most of the left side of the abdomen was occupied by a massively enlarged spleen. I laid down and examined myself and was shocked to find that I did have a much enlarged mass in that part of my body. I called up my friend and colleague Dr. John Byrd, an LLS-funded leukemia researcher and world class hematologist-oncologist here at Ohio State. He took a look at my scan on his home computer and instructed me to drive very slowly back to the James Cancer Hospital because my spleen was about to rupture and I needed it to be removed in an emergency operation as soon as they could get me to the operating room. I underwent a successful operation, as my spleen was being moved from the instrument table to the pathology suite it ruptured, so the operation was indeed “just in time."
It is a rare privilege to be both a cancer care provider as well as a cancer survivor. I had the opportunity to receive the three words that I have spoken to countless other people: “You have cancer," in my case chronic lymphocytic leukemia. I have learned what cancer fatigue feels like, a symptom that I still have on occasion in that I am not free of disease. I have directly benefitted from the results of a clinical trial in which I was a participant; thistrial has been vigorously supported by the LLS. Although, it is unlikely that I will ever go into complete remission and so will be taking targeted chemotherapy for my disease for the rest of my life, I am able to work a full schedule, and am even more close to my patients with whom I freely share my own cancer journey with all its twists and turns.
Stephanie Spielman, after whom the OSU Spielman Breast Cancer Center is named, continues to be with us through her now famous words: “Fight on, live on!” Thank you Stephanie, for this inspiration, and thank you to all my fellow cancer survivors, their caregivers who help make our survival possible, and the dedicated cancer researchers and physicians at the James and elsewhere who work tirelessly to make this a better world for all of us.