When Rachel Hamilton, 19, of Billings went to see her doctor in late 2018 due to extreme pain she experienced while lying down, she knew something wasn’t right. However, she didn’t expect to be diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that would put her on hospice care within 7 months.
“It was during finals week of my fall semester at MSU-B,” Hamilton recalled. “I was shocked by the diagnosis, but was determined to fight it.”
Hamilton was diagnosed with a hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of cancer of the liver not commonly found in people her age. Hamilton, a student at Montana State University-Billings, was determined to fight the disease and underwent treatment in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, her cancer was progressing quickly and she was not responding well to treatment. In June 2019, she was placed on hospice. Determined to do everything he could to save her life, Dr. Patrick Cobb, her oncologist at SCL Health Cancer Centers of Montana, sent her results in for tumor DNA sequencing.
“DNA sequencing looks for abnormalities in the genetic code that can be specifically targeted,” explained Dr. Cobb. “It can reveal a treatment option that might be more commonly used to fight a different type of cancer, but in this specific case and in this specific person, it could be the optimal form of treatment for the patient.”
The form of treatment recommended as a result of the DNA sequencing led to a miraculous recovery for Hamilton.
“Her response to the treatment was incredible,” said Dr. Cobb. “Prior to the DNA sequencing, she was in constant pain and on hospice. Now, she’s back in school and getting her life back.”
Hamilton is grateful for the care she received from Dr. Cobb and the team at SCL Health Cancer Centers of Montana.
“Although I technically still have cancer, this is certainly the best case scenario,” Hamilton stated. “Dr. Cobb was great. He was straightforward and gave me honest answers and great care.”
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*Photo credit to Mike Clark, Billings Gazette*