IU Health Simon Cancer Center

She’s fighting colon cancer with her tribe

Patient Story

Terry Moore can’t do it alone. She realizes that and is surrounded by a group of friends – each one has a role in her healing.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

There’s the “record keeper,” the “problem solver,” the “researcher,” and the “comedian.” Each one plays a vital role in Terry Moore’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.

These women have been friends for decades – they’ve stood up at weddings and stood on the sidelines of their kids’ sporting events. They aren’t about to let Moore stand on her own now.

“Terry reached out to us in the beginning. She’s very good about allowing us to provide support. She knows by excluding us from treatment it would hurt us,” said Susan Sjoquist.

On a recent weekday at IU Health Simon Cancer Center other patients were quietly reading a book, watching TV, or drifting in and out of sleep. Moore’s pod was filled with chatter and laughter.

“They have gone through this entire thing with me – taking notes, asking questions, and researching treatments,” said Moore. “We even offered to take a turn at chemo and offered to give her a stool sample,” adds Sjoquist. She’s the comedian. When things get tough, they all get serious but every now and then, they all need a good laugh.

Sjoquist wears a mask on this day. She’s fighting the sniffles. She and her husband just returned from a Caribbean get-away with Moore and her husband of 25 years Dean Estes. The couple has two boys Aaron, 24 and Adam, 21.

“We’re such good friends I even shared my Caribbean cold with her,” Sjoquist jokes. Rounding out the troop is Katie Kumler, Karen Cox, and Pam Haring. Kumler and Cox met Moore through work at Eli Lilly, where Moore is a research scientist. Haring and Sjoquist met Moore through their kids’ sports.

These women would do just about anything they could for their friend.

It was in the fall of 2014 when Moore was first diagnosed with colon cancer. “I was on Humira for arthritis and my rheumatologist realized I was anemic. He said I was bleeding somewhere,” said Moore. She had just turned 50. A colonoscopy showed she had colon cancer.

She sent a group text to her friends that she didn’t quite complete. What they saw were the words: “I have colon ca . . . . “

“It was like she went radio silent,” said Kumler. “She totally left us hanging,” added Sjoquist. The group text messages became more and more routine as Moore began including her friends in her treatment plan.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month – a time to educate others about the signs and treatment of colon cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screenings at age 45. Those who are considered at average risk do not have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, a history of inflammatory bowel disease, a confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, a personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer. It is recommended people with increased risks begin screening before the age of 45.

“It wasn’t such a shock because cancer runs in my family,” said Moore. Her dad died of complications from lung cancer and had also been diagnosed with renal cancer. Her younger brother died of complications from lung cancer, and her stepmother died of complications from colon cancer. “I kind of always thought it wouldn’t be ‘if” I got it but when’ I got it,” said Moore.

Within a week of her diagnosis she was schedule for a colorectal resection. Lab work followed showing five out of nine lymph nodes were positive for cancer. She had Stage 3 colon cancer.

“I wanted to be at a teaching hospital so I chose IU Health,” said Moore. She is in the care of oncologist Dr. Paul Helft.

After the first chemotherapy, Moore had a period of about 18 months where no cancer was detected. She finished the chemotherapy in the spring of 2015 and in August 2016 the cancer returned. She had radiation and when scans showed continued growth she went back on chemotherapy.

A native of Central Illinois, Moore graduated with a microbiology degree from the University of Illinois. She worked for a time at the University of North Carolina and moved to Indiana 20 years ago to work at Eli Lilly. With a strong science background, gene sequencing was important to her. She worked with the precision genomics team at IU Health and discovered she was a candidate for a drug trial.

It was on the first day of her new treatment that she was surrounded by her friends at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

Together the women defined the roles of each member of the tribe.

“Karen is the problem solver and a servant; Katie is a researcher who bulldozes through information and digs through information to learn more about drug trials; Pam is a nurse so she keeps track of medicines and side effects and tends to the business at hand – like if Moore is getting proper nutrition, sleep and self care. Susan fills in the gaps – keeping them all cheerful and making sure Moore is emotionally strong,” the women collectively joined in.

“It works for me because they know what I need,” said Moore. “Someone is always with me. I never go it alone.”

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