Peggy and Betsy at the Gibbs Cancer Center

Getting back on top

Too busy planning and taking care of everyone else, Peggy McQuade, single mom of two grown daughters, attributed her exhaustion and various symptoms to her busy life.

Peggy’s wakeup call came one day, when she was surprised by her own appearance. Colleagues confirmed: her skin was definitely yellow. Peggy reached out to her doctor, Humaira Khalid, MD, internist at Medical Group of the Carolinas – Internal Medicine – Greer. 

Dr. Khalid sent Peggy to Pelham Medical Center (PMC). The diagnosis: A tumor on her pancreas. She was admitted and her daughter Betsy drove up from Charleston to be with her. While at PMC, the surgeon referred Peggy to Christophe Nguyen, MD, surgical oncologist at Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute in Spartanburg. Dr. Nguyen assembled a team of physicians, including medical oncologist Sharmila Mehta, MD, and radiation oncologist Amy Curtis, MD. Together, they developed a personalized plan to tackle Peggy’s cancer.

Enthusiasm and passion

Despite a whirlwind of doctors and tests, Peggy recalls being impressed by all her physicians, but especially Dr. Nguyen.

“He is caring, the quintessential doctor,” Peggy said.

Peggy’s official diagnosis: Clinical stage IIB, T2, N1 adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. Her treatment plan would include combined chemotherapy and radiation, the Whipple (the most common surgery to remove pancreatic cancer), then more chemotherapy. Betsy decided to stay behind, move in and take care of her mom, even though her husband had just accepted a new job New York.

Finding strength

Today, Peggy focuses on how she got through the challenges of a cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery. She cherishes the fact that Betsy, was here, too. Betsy always kept her mom going, even in the hospital.

“Betsy would say we need to go for a walk, and each time we would go just a little farther,” Peggy said. “If I said I wanted a drink of water, Betsy would help me walk and get it.”

Even when Peggy was at home and not well enough to go out, Betsy kept her mom occupied. They cleaned out her pantry, medicine cabinet and the VHS tapes she hadn’t watched in years.

“You can sit there feeling sorry for yourself or you can keep on moving. You’re sick, but we’re going to keep on living, keep on moving,” Betsy said.

An amazing five years

Statistically, Peggy’s story is amazing. The national survival rate for pancreatic cancer when she was diagnosed was 5 percent. It’s been five since her diagnosis and treatment, and Peggy remains in full remission — cancer free and enjoying life.