Amanda and her husband, Payton, are lifelong residents of Madison, Mississippi. When Amanda was first diagnosed, she went to Dr. Bobby Lee Graham, an oncologist in her hometown. Graham had treated Amanda’s grandmother, grandfather and father-in-law, so she trusted him.
Neuroendocrine tumors are rare and make up only about 10 percent of all pancreatic tumors. Graham recommended Amanda see Dr. Lowell Anthony at Markey. Anthony is nationally known for treating and researching neuroendocrine tumors.
Then Amanda’s best friend, who is an oncology pharmaceutical sales representative, talked to an oncologist in Mississippi who recommended Anthony. She also attended a dinner of medical professionals in Chicago, where a nurse said Amanda needed to see Anthony. “Our heads were spinning after the diagnosis,” Amanda recalls. “I’m sure there are a lot of great places, but when all that happened, we just felt that God was leading us. How many more signs did we need?”
Amanda received her diagnosis in December 2014 and had her first appointment with Anthony in January 2015. “He took so much time with us and was very upfront about everything,” she says. “He was thorough and realistic. He spent an hour and a half with us and it was just amazing. He wasn’t talking to me like a patient. He was talking to me like a person. We appreciated his honesty.” Before coming to Markey, Amanda also met with Dr. David A. Kooby, a surgical oncologist at Emory University. Kooby recommended she receive treatment before he performed an operation.
“Dr. Anthony and Dr. Kooby even talk on the phone during my appointments. You just don’t find that kind of collaboration everywhere.”
Anthony treated Amanda with two oral chemotherapy medications, which shrunk her tumors. Kooby then operated two years ago to remove two-thirds of Amanda’s pancreas, as well as her gallbladder, spleen and about 20 lymph nodes.
All three of Amanda’s doctors work well together, even though they are in Kentucky, Mississippi and Georgia. “Dr. Anthony and Dr. Kooby even talk on the phone during my appointments,” Amanda says. “You just don’t find that kind of collaboration everywhere.”
In 2020, tumors began growing on Amanda’s liver, and Anthony recommended a combination of chemotherapy and surgery. Amanda had one surgery in August and is awaiting another one. Recovery from the first surgery was rough, but she says she’s feeling close to normal these days.
Amanda appreciates that Anthony understands how important it is for her to attend her children’s soccer games and family vacations and be an active participant in family life.
“When our goals are not to cure, then quality of life becomes the number one goal,” Anthony says. “She’s a mother, she’s a wife and she’s engaged in philanthropy. I think she has approached the challenges she has faced realistically. We want to control her symptoms and have her participate in her family milestone events. Our goal is to get her to her daughter’s graduation and then we’ll create a new goal for what we want to achieve next.”
Amanda and Payton have appreciated the care at Markey and wanted to give back to the institution. They chose to fund a clinical trial for neuroendocrine research because it’s a rare type of tumor that doesn’t get the funding that more common cancers receive. “We want to do what we can for anybody that’s diagnosed with it,” Amanda says. “The future of cancer is in the research and the cutting edge treatment. I feel like God led us to Markey for so many reasons. It’s a way of giving back to Markey because they’ve done so much for us.”