In 2016, Quiana Godinez hit the low point in her cancer journey — and she simply gave up hope.
It had been tough from the beginning. She’d spent most of 2013, the year she turned 34, in severe and unrelenting abdominal pain. Colon cancer ran in her family, but when she mentioned that to her doctors, they dismissed the idea.
“They would say, ‘You’re too young, and colon cancer is a man’s disease,’” she recalled. “Plus, I’d had my yearly colonoscopy, and everything looked fine.”
But the pain would not let up.
“It just got worse and worse. I couldn’t even ride in a car, because if we went over a bump or ditch, there was just so much pain.”
Then other issues developed: UTIs, kidney infections, anemia. She wound up, again and again, in the emergency room, until they finally realized something was very wrong.
A CAT scan found a suspicious spot, and a new colonoscopy showed that she did, indeed, have colon cancer — but in an area her earlier colonoscopy had omitted, because cancer is rare there.
“I felt like a whole year of worrying and feeling something was wrong had finally been confirmed,” she said.
She had surgery, followed by chemotherapy, but a few months after she finished treatment, the cancer was back and had metastasized to her reproductive organs. She had a hysterectomy and a more intense course of chemotherapy, whose side effects included severe foot pain. After several rounds, the chemo just stopped working — but the side effects remained, and she could barely walk.
“I was at a prayer group, and they asked God for a medicine with no side effects,” she said. “That was such a crazy request, I just thought, ‘Yeah, right.’”
“As soon as he walked into the room, I just started crying,” she recalled. “And he told me, ‘We will never give up.’”
Ziari put Godinez on the breakthrough immunotherapy drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab), which had just received FDA approval
for certain types of cancers, including hers.
Godinez has been on the drug for about two years and is doing really well — with none of the debilitating side effects she experienced with chemotherapy. And unlike the chemotherapy she received, which took an entire day, Keytruda infusions take just a half-hour.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “We prayed for a medicine with no side effects, and it’s just blown my mind.”
Her appreciation for the City of Hope staff and Dr. Ziari is profound. “I just love the nurses,” she said. “And Dr. Ziari always listens, he’s always truthful, and he’s always understanding."
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