Fort Sanders Regional tackles complex cancer case

Jay FitzClaiborne, Our Town Health

Brenda Beason sat quietly in her home in New Tazewell, bracing herself for the day ahead. At her side was Dieter Kiser, the man she had fallen in love with after the death of her first husband.

In a matter of hours they would find out the results of her biopsy and PET scan, but that wouldn’t be the only thing Brenda would remember about that day. Dieter chose that private moment to propose.

Brenda had endured cancer before and faced the possibility of going back into the trenches to fight for her life. Dieter made a commitment to fight alongside her.

A Complex Case

Brenda doesn’t believe in putting life on hold for cancer. She embraces gratitude and joy, refusing to live under the circumstances. “This is my perspective,” she says, “I’m not going to worry about something that is not in my control.”

That positive attitude and her faith in God have been instrumental in helping Brenda be content during the most difficult days of her life. She needed a qualified medical team she could have faith in too. Her oncologist recom­mended the team at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.

In addition to a previous surgery for a tumor on her ovary, she’d lost a kidney to cancer and had undergone hernia surgery. This time, Brenda had not one but two cancerous tumors. Rectal cancer had been detected during a colonoscopy, and ovarian cancer had returned.

Fort Sanders Regional colorectal surgeon Sung Lee, MD, led a team through nine hours of surgery to remove scar tissue and tumors with the least amount of damage and the best chance for restored quality of life. For the rectal cancer, he used robotic-assisted surgery.

“With the robotic surgery we have about seven times more magnification than your naked eye,” Dr. Lee explains. “The robotic instrument is about the size of your fingertip. It’s very small, which means you can do very delicate dissection with it.”

Because this minimally invasive surgery doesn’t require large incisions or much movement inside the body, recovery takes less time and tends to be less painful.

Dr. Lee shared the room with urologist John-Paul Newport, MD, who gave extra protection to Brenda’s remaining kidney, and gynecologic oncologist Brook Saunders, MD, who removed the recurrent ovarian cancer.

It was a complex case, but the Fort Sanders Regional surgical team was successful. After facing another frightening fight against cancer on two fronts, Brenda is back on her feet today and once again inspiring others. “You have to take whatever life brings you and make the most of it,” Brenda says. “You can’t sit and cry.”

Her ‘Happily Ever After’

In a pavilion under sunny skies in Sharps Chapel, Brenda carried a bouquet of daisies as she and her fiancé said their vows. True to his word, Dieter has been with her every step of the way, sharing strength, sorrows and success as Brenda Beason-Kiser has moved through the phases of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“It doesn’t matter what the situation is,” Brenda says. “There’s a rainbow somewhere.”

After losing her first husband to an illness, Brenda found a second chance at life-long love waiting under her rainbow. When aggressively attacked by cancer, Brenda found excellent medical care through Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center under her rainbow as well.

Brenda believes it’s a waste of tears to cry over something you can’t control, but when she talks about what she’s been through and the blessings she’s experienced along the way, the tears flow freely.

“They’re happy tears,” she says.

The daisies have withered and the last slice of wedding cake is gone, but Brenda’s determination to make the most of life remains as strong as it ever was.

“We shouldn’t take life for granted,” Brenda says. “I thank God every day for every blessing.”

For Brenda, those blessings include the love of family and friends, the goodness of God, her devoted husband, and a surgical team committed to her quality of life. It may not look like a traditional storybook ending, but for Brenda it’s a “happily ever after” with the promise of more to come.

A Winning Team

Brenda’s case was complicated, but three physicians worked together in the operating room at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center to give her the best possible care.

Sung Lee, MD, was the lead surgeon. In addition to removing rectal cancer, he was tasked with removing scar tissue that had developed after Brenda’s previous cancer and hernia surgeries. Removing the scar tissue took about two hours. Dr. Lee was in surgery with his patient for a total of nine hours. Dr. Lee explains that teamwork was in play long before the complex surgery. A multidisciplinary rectal cancer tumor board reviews the case of each new rectal cancer patient, determining the best course of treatment from the start. The tumor board includes specialists who may be directly involved in a patient’s case, from radiology and pathology to oncology and surgery.

Coming together, the specialists are able to gain every perspective on the case in order to make a fully informed recommendation.

“I think we work very well together in the Covenant Health system,” Dr. Lee says. “It was a very complex situation but our tumor board team made the decision together that surgery up front was going to benefit the patient.”

After surgery, Brenda underwent chemotherapy at Thompson Cancer Survival Center’s West Knoxville location for the recurrent ovarian cancer, but didn’t need any additional treatment for her rectal cancer.

“She just needs to have another colonoscopy in one year, then make sure she doesn’t have the recurrence of the ovarian cancer or the rectal cancer,” Dr. Lee says. “She’s doing great.”

Information provided by Covenant Health

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