This 89-year-old woman isn’t giving in to cancer

Florence Hampton’s battle with lung cancer provides inspiration and hope
May 23rd, 2017

 

Florence Hampton's, 89, has had a 12-year battle with lung cancer. She poses here in her home with several family photos behind her.
At 89, Florence Hampton’s 12-year battle with lung cancer hasn’t stopped her from enjoying life, and she credits her success to the support of her doctors, friends and family, which includes eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Photo by Kati Blocker, UCHealth.

When Florence Hampton was told that her cancer had returned, her UCHealth oncologist, Dr. Diana Medgyesy, didn’t mention survival rates or possible outcomes. And Hampton didn’t ask. It didn’t matter. Hampton was determined that she wouldn’t “give into cancer” — and she hasn’t.

It’s been 12 years since that lung cancer diagnosis — and 19 years since her first bout with cancer. Recently, Hampton celebrated her 89th birthday with her family — all four generations.

“This cancer, I deal with it by not thinking about it,” Hampton said. “Every month I go in for my cocktail (chemotherapy). But I stay busy. The more you give into it, the harder it is.”

A short time after she retired from her job as a surgical technician at Poudre Valley Hospital in 1998, her primary care provider, UCHealth internist Dr. Cathy Ow, found a spot in her lower lung during an X-ray. It was stage I lung cancer.

Hampton’s lower lobe of her lung was removed, and she required no further treatment. But in 2005, just after meeting Medgyesy, she was diagnosed again with lung cancer; this time it was Stage IV metastatic lung cancer to the bone and mediastinal nodes.

“It was devastating when I found out I had cancer, and it was scary,” Hampton said. “But from the beginning, my doctors made me feel hopeful. They never gave me a timeline, and I felt that kept me going.”

Hampton enrolled in a clinical trial with chemotherapy and targeted therapy with Iressa (gefitinib). Iressa is an inhibitor that blocks proteins that promote the development of cancerous cells with certain epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations. Iressa was later approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in July 2015.

Florence Hampton smiles in her home. She recently celebrated her 89th birthday.
Florence Hampton recently enjoyed her 89th birthday by celebrating with her family — four generations of them. Photo by Kati Blocker, UCHealth.

The treatment helped, and Hampton went into remission. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the then 79-year-old’s battle with cancer. She relapsed again in 2007 and received targeted radiation. That remission lasted one year, at which time cancer was found in the lymph nodes in her neck.

“I’ve been really blessed and fortunate to have the support of my friends, family and great doctors in Dr. Ow, Dr. (George) Girardi (anesthesiologist) and Dr. Medgyesy,” Hampton said. “Dr. Medgyesy is an angel who makes you feel like her only patient.”

Hampton leaned on those around her during the next few years as the cycle of relapsing and remission continued.

“Florence (Hampton) shows us how you can’t always go by statistics,” Medgyesy said. “You just never know. Science continues to march along, bringing more and more treatment options.”

Since 2009, Hampton has been receiving periodic chemotherapy, with longer breaks in treatment between March 2011 and July 2015, at which time recurrent disease in the bone forced her to resume treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, Medgyesy said.

“Her last PET scan, in April 2017, showed no signs of recurrent cancer, and she is still receiving chemotherapy (once a month) to keep the cancer in remission,” Medgyesy said. “I’ve been amazed by Florence. She is an inspiration and a hopeful story — one that says, ‘Hey, don’t write your will yet.’”