Jami Fischer has been disease-free for nearly two years. That’s rare for someone who’s battled Stage 4 colon cancer. But with support from her expert care team at Levine Cancer Institute, and a persistently positive attitude, Jami’s still here – and still smiling.

News | 14 days ago

With Expert Care - and a Smile - Colon Cancer Survivor Beats the Odds

Jami Fischer has been disease-free for nearly two years. That’s rare for someone who’s battled Stage 4 colon cancer. But with support from her expert care team at Levine Cancer Institute, and a persistently positive attitude, Jami’s still here – and still smiling.

When you meet Jami Fischer, she hopes you’ll notice the royal blue ring and bracelets she’s wearing.

“I don’t ever take them off,” she says. “A lot of times it brings up conversations with people, which I like. It gives me an opportunity to tell my story.”

Jami wears blue to raise awareness for colon cancer, and her story is a unique one. Just a few years ago, she wasn’t sure she’d live to tell it.

It all began in late 2014, when she started having severe stomach pains. At first, it didn’t seem all that unusual. For years, Jami had suffered from ulcerative colitis, a chronic bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. During a flare-up, ulcerative colitis can cause pain, cramping and ongoing diarrhea.

But this time was different. Jami hadn’t had a bowel movement in nearly a month, and medication wasn’t helping. After getting a CT scan, she received difficult news: She had Stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to her liver.

Fighting for her life

Jami was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery to remove the tumor blocking her colon. She also underwent a colostomy, a procedure that’s done when a typical bowel movement isn’t possible. The surgeon creates an opening in the belly and attaches a bag to collect waste.

Ulcerative colitis can increase your risk for colon cancer, but Jami’s diagnosis was still unexpected. She was only 41 years old at the time. For women, the average age of colon cancer diagnosis is 72. At any age, Stage 4 colon cancer is challenging to treat.

But Jami, a married mother of two with an active lifestyle and busy career, was ready to put up a fight. Soon after she was first diagnosed, she started seeing Stuart Salmon, MD, a gastrointestinal medical oncologist at Levine Cancer Institute (LCI). She says their connection was immediate.

“Going through this process, I realized how important it was to have a doctor that I felt comfortable with, that I trusted myself with, and that I felt like was going to fight for me,” she says. “I’m extremely thankful to Dr. Salmon for not looking at me as a statistic.”

Beating the odds

At the beginning of 2015, Jami started chemotherapy to shrink the tumors on her liver in preparation for surgery. And in July, Jami had a successful surgery to remove the remaining tumors, followed by two more months of chemotherapy.

The treatment was tough on her body, but Jami was doing well: She was cancer-free. She even had her colostomy reversed by Joshua Hill, MS, MD, a surgical oncologist at LCI. But with her history, Jami was still considered a high-risk patient, so Dr. Salmon continued to monitor her health.

In 2016, a routine CT scan revealed two small spots on her lungs. The spot on her left lung was too tiny to operate on, but surgery on her right lung confirmed that it was cancer.

To treat the spot on her left lung, Jami received stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), a cutting-edge procedure that delivers very high doses of radiation to a precise area. This targets tumors while avoiding damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.

After her final SBRT treatment, Jami was, once again, cancer-free. And now, she’s coming up on a major milestone.

“April of this year I will be two years in remission, which is not the norm for Stage 4 colon cancer. And I know that,” she says. “My son graduated from high school last year. I didn’t even think I was going to see that. I’m extremely thankful for every day.”

Jami Fischer has been disease-free for nearly two years. That’s rare for someone who’s battled Stage 4 colon cancer. But with support from her expert care team at Levine Cancer Institute, and a persistently positive attitude, Jami’s still here – and still smiling.

Dr. Salmon still monitors Jami closely, but he’s encouraged by what he’s seen. “To get past your first two years is the first big hurdle. The risk of recurrence starts to go down pretty rapidly after that,” he says.

Finding new purpose

According to Dr. Salmon, an aggressive treatment plan, access to advanced therapies and a collaborative approach to care were critical to her success. “She’s one of the very few patients with multi-organ metastatic disease who’s been rendered disease-free with a combination of surgeries, radiation therapy and chemotherapy,” he says.

But Dr. Salmon is quick to give Jami credit for the important role she’s played in her recovery. “She’s got a great attitude, and she takes care of her health,” he says. “She’s a very strong person. She’s a very positive person. I think that matters.”

Now, Jami has made it her mission to help others facing colon cancer.

“I learned early on in my journey how important it was to have someone to help guide you through it,” she says. “That’s why I’ve jumped in where I can to help other folks navigate through as well.”

Jami actively shares her story with her community, both in person and on social media, to spread awareness about colon cancer. It’s already made a huge impact: She’s helped several people find their cancer early, when it’s most treatable. She even connected them to her care team at LCI, who she’s come to consider family.

Jami believes the experience has changed her for the better.

“A lot of positive things came from my journey. I’m able to help other people through theirs,” she says. “When you have something major like this happen to you, it definitely changes your outlook on life. The girl that was taking my blood a few weeks ago said, ‘You’re always smiling!’ And I said, ‘You know what? I’ve got a lot to smile about.’”

Did you know that colonoscopies prevent colon cancer? This screening test can also find colon cancer early, when it’s easiest to treat. To schedule a colonoscopy appointment at Atrium Health, call 704-512-6161.