ATLANTA — It is a cancer that doctors say only has a 9 percent survival rate after five years. But an Atlanta woman refused to let those odds stop her from overcoming stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Debra Bradley was 57 when she was diagnosed with the disease. She told Channel 2's Carol Sbarge that she ignored the first doctor who told her all he could offer was to help her to rest comfortably.
Several years later, Bradley is cancer-free. She believes finding a positive doctor and getting into a clinical trial at Emory University Hospital helped save her life.
“I was experiencing indigestion. I was experiencing little pains similar to heartburn,” Bradley said.
The busy real estate broker, who oversees a big staff in Buckhead, figured it was acid reflux. She put off seeing a doctor for four months until her now-husband insisted she get checked out.
"I learned I had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I had a 2-inch tumor in my pancreas and innumerable lesions in my liver," Bradley told Sbarge. "I immediately thought what everybody thinks when they get a diagnosis like that, that I didn’t have any time left."
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Bradley said she decided to stay positive. She refused to read anything negative about pancreatic cancer on the internet.
After her first two discouraging doctors, she found a doctor at the Emory Winship Cancer Institute who treated her with chemo and an experimental drug.
"At nine months, I was pronounced NED: No evidence of disease," Bradley said.
She no longer has chemo treatments but still takes the experimental pills twice a day.
"I feel like I’m here for a reason and I think it's to share that story of hope," Bradley said.
Her advice to "Jeopardy!' host Alex Trebek, who announced last week he was diagnosed with the disease, and to others, is to get multiple opinions from various doctors and pursue clinical trials.
For the rest of us, she said don't dismiss it when you just don't feel right.
"It's just a miracle," Bradley said.
Pancreatic cancer is a difficult cancer to detect early. Often, by the time symptoms show up it is in an advanced stage.
Bradley told Sbarge that not everyone in her trial has had success and she is remaining active in fundraising for earlier detection and more treatment options.
Cox Media Group