Dakota and Her Husband Brian S. Share Their Story

Diagnosis: Sarcoma in the leg, 2006

From a patient interview on Sept. 5, 2014

Dakota_SarcomaIn 2006, Dakota was having pain in her leg. The doctor at the cancer center where she was treated first concluded the tumor, located in her tibia, was benign. After further examination and several biopsies, the doctor concluded it was cancer. Dakota’s leg was amputated. Her doctors couldn’t do anything further for her and she was referred to Dr. Chawla.

While Dakota was being treated at the Center, she and her husband Brian would drive from Sacramento to the Santa Monica office of the Sarcoma Oncology Center.

Dakota shares her personal story of her experiences with the Sarcoma Oncology Center:

I came down to see Dr. Chawla and he said, ‘No, you’re young and you’re healthy and we can do this. We’ll treat you aggressively and we can do this.’ We’re not going to put a band aide on it, we’re going to cure you.’

I went to another cancer center for a second opinion and they said, ‘Oh, Dr. Chawla is the greatest.’ So we got back in the car and went down again to Dr. Chawla. That was 8 ½ years ago…June 2006.

He treated me, and he treated me aggressively. I really didn’t have a bad experience. We would come down and stay five days, that was the treatment I was on. We would come down for five days and stay in hotels. We have two kids, and they were in the first grade and the seventh grade at that time. So we had little ones at home.

I get real nervous when I come down, I had two recurrences. I had it in my spine, which was treated with laser surgery and radiation. Shortly afterward I had it in my lung, and Dr. Chawla put me on this trial called ‘Yondalis,’ and every time I came in the tumor had shrunk more and more and more. And then Dr. Chawla sent me to a cancer center to have a portion of my lung removed where the tumor was, and the doctors there said there was no signs of cancer, the chemo had actually killed the cancer.

Then Dr. Chawla put me on maintenance. We’ve been fortunate, I definitely count my blessings.

Dakota’s recommendations to new patients:

To me I just think Dr. Chawla is terrific. They’d told me there was nothing they could do for me. And Dr. Chawla, he treats you aggressively. He treats you with what he thinks you can handle. He doesn’t take ‘no.’ Dr. Chawla will say, ‘If it’s not this drug, then let’s try this.’ He’s not giving up on you. He’s going to continue to treat you. I think he’s well known in the community. Wherever we go we hear, ‘Oh, we know Dr. Chawla!” As far as sarcoma.

I don’t think Yondalis was available when I first started (note: Dr. Chawla was leading the clinical trial). I was real fortunate to get into that program. The trial that I was on actually killed the tumor that was in my lung.

I’ve known a lot of the people (being treated in the clinic) and made friends with a lot of the patients. My mom is there taking care of the kids when I’m gone. So I had a good support system. Good doctors.

Brian’s comments:

I guess there is always hope. We’ve been doing this for 8 ½ years now, and initially with the first cancer center, oncologists were saying, ‘Oh, the drugs are worse than their doing you any good.’ That’s scary. You’re looking at young children, oh my what’s going to happen? Then 8 ½ years later one child is grown and the other almost grown.

Note: Dakota and her husband were at the Center for Dakota’s six-month check up. During the interview, Dr. Chawla came in to announce: “Great news everything is clear! See you in six months then.”