Julie LaFore thought she was over cancer after successful treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma in 1996. She was used to celebrating all-clear checkups with oncologists as she relocated to Chicago and Wisconsin.
When she moved to Indianapolis, her doctor recommended Sead Beganovic, MD, of Indiana University Health Central Indiana Cancer Centers. With Beganovic, the all-clears continued—patient and doctor even celebrated her 21 years cancer-free with a glass of milk for the 2017 #winnersdrinkmilk campaign.
At her April 2017 check-in, Beganovic discovered LaFore was slightly anemic and ordered an ultrasound on a Thursday morning. His office called LaFore that afternoon and said, “Go to the ER at Methodist immediately. You have a mass in your inferior vena cava.”
After an MRI and a biopsy done through the jugular vein, LaFore was told the mass was a blood clot. She was treated with blood thinners during a week in the hospital, but Beganovic wasn’t convinced. He ordered a PET scan, which showed a low level of cancer activity. “It wasn’t high,” LaFore said, “but Dr. B was worried.”
She had completed the 500 Festival Miler Series in preparation to run the 2017 Mini-Marathon, but deferred her entry.
Beganovic suggested that LaFore have a second biopsy, this one through the groin to test a different side of the mass. That biopsy confirmed Beganovic’s suspicions. It found leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that can occur inside blood vessels.
LaFore was referred to Daniel Rushing, MD of IU Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center for chemotherapy to reduce and contain the sarcoma. “They hit it hard,” LaFore said. “I had inpatient stays in July and August.” In October, she had surgery to remove the piece of vein containing the sarcoma and the blood clot encasing it.
And this week, she’s running the Mini-Marathon again.
“Dr. B just wasn’t going to let it go,” LaFore said. “My primary care doctor told me to hug Dr. Beganovic, and at my consult, Dr. Rushing said, ‘Someone was watching over you, my friend.’ Still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”
LaFore has demonstrated her gratitude with a gift to the Simon Cancer Center. To learn how you can support the work of dedicated physicians, visit iuhealthfoundation.org.