A Change of Course: Sightseeing Trip Turns Into a Cancer Journey

Our community’s healthcare needs don’t stop for a pandemic. Cancer patients still need treatment, supportive care and research to discover new therapies. Philanthropy makes all these things possible for patients such as Diedre Alexander, who has benefited from services at HonorHealth, HonorHealth Research Institute and HonorHealth’s Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center.

Energetic retiree Diedre Alexander was living her dream. After a rich and varied career, she was traveling around the country in an RV with her husband. Then they hit a major bump in the road. Not feeling well, Diedre visited an emergency room out-of-state and was ultimately diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.

Hightailing it home, the Valley residents turned to HonorHealth for comprehensive care, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Later, Diedre participated in a clinical study at HonorHealth Research Institute, giving her access to an innovative new treatment approach.

As part of the study, some of Diedre’s tissue was used to grow an organoid in the laboratory. The organoid is a small version of Diedre’s primary tumor. Investigators at HonorHealth Research Institute tested different treatments on the organoid to determine the optimal targeted treatment for Diedre’s individual cancer. While other factors can come into play when the selected treatment is given to the patient rather than their organoid, this novel approach “is still most likely to be less taxing on my body and has a good chance of working,” Diedre says.

“Trying different medicines can be done without me having to worry and wonder what is or isn’t working,” she adds. “I’m very excited about the opportunity to participate in this groundbreaking study and to know that such advanced work is going on right here at HonorHealth.”

Today, Diedre says the targeted treatment she receives at HonorHealth Research Institute is working very well, reducing her tumors and offering her an improved quality of life as she approaches her five-year “cancerversary.” “I continue to be so grateful for all of the wonderful services I receive from HonorHealth and the fabulous healthcare providers associated with HonorHealth Research Institute,” she adds.

In addition to participating in the research study, Diedre is active in the Body, Mind and Spirit program at HonorHealth’s Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center. The program, she says, offers support and hope to patients who are overwhelmed with navigating their cancer journey.

“It’s been a lifeline for me,” explains Diedre, who considers an optimistic outlook absolutely essential to keeping healthy. “Everyone in the program is so positive and supportive of my beliefs and there are endless opportunities available.”

In fact, she’s enjoyed free classes ranging from tai chi and yoga to reiki, as well as a “fabulous retreat” where she made friends with other women dealing with cancer. She’s also benefited from the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center’s social services, oncology navigators and nutritionist consultations.

“I’m so grateful to have the support of HonorHealth, HonorHealth Research Institute and the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center to help me move forward with my journey,” says Diedre.