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Donna Bender first began experiencing cancerous symptoms in 1990, when she was 50. It would be 12 more years, however, before her pancreas cancer was diagnosed in 2002. She thought she had a short time to live.
At her doctor’s recommendation, the Pennsylvania native traveled to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and a revolutionary pancreas cancer vaccine to help her immune system conquer any cancer cells left behind.
At Johns Hopkins, Bender said, her doctors and nurses did not place parameters on her life: “ I loved that. Dr. Daniel Laheru and Beth Onners, my nurse, were as determined as I was to take on the cancer.”
Every six months she comes to the Skip Viragh Center for Pancreas Cancer Clinical Research and Patient Care to receive the vaccine—two injections in each thigh and two in her arm.
“It is the most wonderful, relaxing environment,” she says. “I feel so secure all of the time knowing that they have my best interests in mind. I trust them to do the best for me.”
Throughout the years Bender has come to the clinic, she has met many other patients who are living well with pancreas cancer.
“It is a pleasure to come to this clinic. I am so thankful for the chance they have given me to live a normal life,” says Bender, 73. “I feel better and have more energy now than I did when I was young.”