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Read Maureen's Story

Maureen Gates’ Benefits from World-Leading Cancer Care

Her Story of Surviving Pancreatic Cancer

Maureen GatesLakeville resident Maureen Gates’ selfless spirit and contagious love for life bring joy to those around her — including her students. As a teacher at Boston College’s Eagle Eyes Project, she has spent years educating disabled individuals with no means of verbal communication. Seeing so many lives transformed, Maureen is a steadfast proponent of hope and miracles.  She never realized how this faith would be challenged.

In November 2009, 63-year old Maureen was on the Cape doing what she loves most — enjoying the company of family. She hadn’t felt like herself for a few weeks, a bit lethargic, with an itchy rash that didn’t seem to go away. Normally healthy and vibrant, this wife, mother and grandmother of eight was reluctant to rush to her physician. Fortunately, Maureen’s concerned family prompted her to seek immediate medical help, and that day, Maureen left Cape Cod for South Shore Hospital. After a series of tests and scans, she was soon told the diagnosis that no one is ever prepared for: pancreatic cancer.

Maureen described her initial mix of emotions when recalling the day she received the diagnosis. “I remember acknowledging the fact that I had already been more than blessed with a wonderful life, and I was grateful. In that same moment, however, everything in my life centered on survival.”

Thomas E. Clancy, MD, surgical oncologist at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center in clinical affiliation with South Shore Hospital, consulted with Maureen and discussed the recommended treatment approach for her situation — the Whipple procedure. The extensive surgery involves removing the part of the pancreas, a portion of the bile duct, the gallbladder and the duodenum, and often a portion of the stomach.

“Fortunately, I knew I was in the hands of the best team of doctors and clinicians at the Cancer Center and I was confident in Dr. Clancy, knowing that he was on my side looking for the same victory,” Maureen said.

Following a successful Whipple procedure, Maureen entered the next phase of treatment which included chemotherapy and chemoradiation. Rolf Freter, MD, director of medical oncology at the Cancer Center and Bruce Borgelt, MD, radiation oncologist, led her care with chemotherapy and chemoradiation — with the goal of avoiding recurrence.

“Everyone involved in my care really saved me, lessening all worry and anxiety, allowing me to stay focused on my family and students who bring me such joy and inspiration,” she said. “It’s truly miraculous to think about the domino effect that brought me here today, from supportive family to the amazing clinicians at South Shore Hospital and the Cancer Center. I am now a pancreatic cancer survivor.”

The specialized care patients receive at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center in clinical affiliation with South Shore Hospital allows patients like Maureen local access to world-leading cancer care.