Annette Osborne, a cancer patient with not much time to live, was referred to a Markey physician. His innovative treatment allowed Osborne to keep living.

After grim prognosis, Winchester woman finds answers at Markey

For Annette Osborne, a cancer patient from Winchester, the prognosis was not good. Her oncologist had given up. “Enjoy the time you have left with your family, there’s nothing more we can do,” he told her.

But Osborne wasn’t ready to die, at least not without a fight. She wasn’t ready to give up on being there for her husband and children or watching her grandchildren grow up.

Initially, Osborne had ignored the symptoms that turned out to be cancer. She’d been caring for her ailing father, so it was easy to overlook her own aches and pains.

When she noticed abnormal bleeding, she saw her gynecologist, who said it was likely nothing to be concerned about, that it was probably a small tear that would heal on its own. When that didn’t happen, she went back for more tests. That was when she learned she had vaginal cancer.

After her oncologist told her to prepare to die, Osborne pushed back, and the doctor offered one more sliver of hope.

Dr. Jonathan Feddock at the UK Markey Cancer Center was doing some innovative treatment. Osborne seized her chance, and in early 2016, she met with Feddock to see if he could help her.

An uncommon approach

Feddock, an assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Medicine, was the only physician in the area providing a brachytherapy treatment known as permanent interstitial implants. Brachytherapy, a type of internal radiation therapy, uses radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. While brachytherapy is a common treatment option, the use of permanent seeds which, in Osborne’s case, were placed free-handed inside the vagina, were not.

According to Feddock, the general opinion among most oncologists is that once a patient develops a recurrence of their cancer and it is in a part of their body that has been radiated before, there is no curative treatment other than radical surgery. But access to an NCI-designated cancer center and physicians who conduct research on new treatment options is part of the reason Osborne is alive today.

And she is doing better than she could have ever imagined. She’s been able to watch one of her daughters become a mother and attend sleepovers with her granddaughter. “It’s the small things that I appreciate, like a beautiful spring day and the chance to enjoy the sun. This disease has taken so many people that I know; I take the chance to enjoy anything I can,” Osborne said.

Feddock has a positive outlook on her prognosis as well. “Our own results suggest that if there is no sign of cancer coming back after six months, then most women tend to do well,” he said. It’s been more than a year since Osborne’s treatment, Feddock continued, “so in her case, I am hopeful that this cancer is behind her.”

Looking toward the future

Osborne is excited for what the future could hold for her. A nurse by training, she’s interested in working with cancer patients when she returns to work. “I’ve been thinking about going back to the healthcare field; there may be more schooling in my future,” she said. Her experience as a patient who was told the end was near is something Osborne believes will make her a more empathetic healthcare provider.

Osborne has been back at the gym and preparing for her healthier life. She’s even excited to be training for her first 5K.

A referral to Dr. Feddock and an unwillingness to give up are what she credits for having the chance to enjoy the rest of her life, and that’s exactly what she plans to do.

Next steps:

  • Caring physicians, clinical trials and the power of advanced medicine all come together at the UK Markey Cancer Center to give patients the best treatment possible.
  • For many women, getting regular Pap smears could be the difference between catching cervical cancer early or discovering it late.