OHSU Knight Cancer Institute

Knight Cancer Institute Patient Stories

Liberty Barnes, with her husband

Search for stories by cancer type

Breast cancer

‘We’ve got to fight this thing’

Celeste Saenz left the Air Force with can-do determination — and trauma from a sexual assault. Both played a role when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Saenz, then living in Texas, wanted an expert, all-woman team. She found just that at OHSU. Learn what happened next.

I am alive. I am strong

Brenna Lindsley was 38 when she learned she had breast cancer. The next year, she celebrated her "cancerversary" by traveling to Scotland by herself. Read Brenna's story.

Surviving breast cancer — twice

Emily Hauser was six months postpartum with her second child when she received the diagnosis. Breast cancer. Four tumors — one the size of a walnut. She also found out she had the mutated BRCA 1 gene, an inherited mutation that increases the risk of breast cancer. Read Emily's story.

Thriving with love, wisdom and gratitude

Pamela Feidelson's cancer journey began at a routine check-up with her gynecologist. At 38, three words changed her life: You have cancer. After three months of chemotherapy, a mastectomy, reconstruction and several hairstyles, she is cancer-free. Read Pamela's story.

Three dots mark the spot

Liberty Barnes got her first tattoos at the age of 41: three tiny blue dots on her chest and either side of her rib cage. Why? To help OHSU technologists align her body for radiation therapy to treat her breast cancer. Read about Liberty's experiences at OHSU and what she thinks of those tattoos now.

Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer

Anne's story

Anne Matsen traveled to OHSU from Seattle for pancreatic cancer surgery with Dr. Flavio Rocha, an expert in the complex operation she needed. In their search for a surgeon, the family said their mantra was “the surgeon is the method” -- meaning while the type of procedure is important, the person performing it is paramount. Read Anne's story.

Diana's story

In 2017, 50-year-old Diana Dowd was feeling lethargic, like her body wanted to “shut down.” After a multitude of tests, including colonoscopies and endoscopies, her oncology team in Spokane, Washington, determined the source of her fatigue: a malignant mass in her stomach they determined was a rare gastrointestinal stromal tumor, also known as GIST. Read Diana's story.


"I can't give up."

When Hai Pham found out he had cancer, the summer before starting his residency program in dentistry at OHSU, his first thought was of his family. “I still help out my parents and my siblings. I’m the oldest, and so the pressure is on,” he says. “I told myself over and over: I can’t give up. I need to help support my family.” Read Hai's story.

Fighting cancer with Matt’s Army

Matt McCallum was training for a  half marathon when he was hit with exhaustion, headaches and body pains. He was  diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014 and underwent a bone marrow  transplant at OHSU. Gabi, his fiancee, organized a Facebook group called Matt’s  Army to surround McCallum with support. Read Matt's story. 

A performance to remember

Suse Skinner lit up the room with her smile, positivity and humor. A breast cancer survivor, she went on to battle acute myeloid leukemia. In August 2016, she was admitted to OHSU. Skinner wrote and performed the song,  "The Good Ship OHSU" to show her gratitude to everyone on her care  team.  See Suse's performance and find a link to her story.

Out of options — until she tried Gleevec

Judy Orem was desperate. She had been battling chronic myeloid leukemia for three years, and chemotherapy wasn’t working any more. She considered a bone marrow transplant, but doctors told her that her chance of survival was less than 5%. Then she found a ray of hope: a Phase I clinical trial of a new medication. Read Judy’s story.

“They’ll do anything they can for you.”

Jimmie Dodson is a blood cancer patient at the Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria, Oregon. The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute has partnered with Columbia to provide care for people in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington. Watch a video of Jimmie talking about the wonderful staff at Columbia and how convenient it is to have a local treatment option.

Lung cancer

One ‘miracle’ patient’s motto: ‘Be grateful for today’

In early January 2019, Lisa Wooden thought she had the flu. She went to urgent care, saw her primary care physician and was referred to an infectious disease specialist. After a variety of tests and scans, she learned there was a growth in her chest wall, and on Jan. 16, she was diagnosed with cancer. Read Lisa's story.

Prostate cancer

The "Real McCoy"

As an OHSU patient, 70–year-old David Seidl was eligible for a national study on a drug to treat prostate cancer. He never hesitated to take part. “I figured I was on the real McCoy from the get-go,” Seidl said. Read about David's story and the study.


“I can walk again.”

Brian Matekovich was in his late 30s when he began experiencing inexplicable pain and swelling in his right knee. It took years to get a correct diagnosis: tenosynovial giant cell tumor, or TGCT, a rare type of tumor that slowly destroys joint cartilage and bone. Read Brian's story.

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