Nurse starts race to fight cancer


As a registered nurse, Jeanne Lambert couldn't believe she'd never heard of the cancer with which she was diagnosed last year.

Saturday, runners and walkers will take to the streets around City Park in an event Lambert started.

It's the first year of the Run for Hope, a 5K run and walk to raise awareness about carcinoid cancer and raise money for cancer research in Fort Collins and the nation.

After three to four years of high blood pressure, hot flashes, wheezing, dizzy spells and small strokes, Lambert, now 61, turned a corner that would lead to a diagnosis and treatment.

On May 14, 2004, a Friday, fatigue forced her to leave work early. The next day, she went to Nebraska to help her mother move into an assisted living center.

That Sunday, she suffered a major rectal bleedout and lost nearly four units of blood, or about four pints. Surgeons removed her small intestine and colon and diagnosed her with carcinoid cancer.

"I was diagnosed with a cancer - and I'm a nurse - that I had never heard of," said Lambert, who works at Harmony Surgery Center.

Carcinoid tumors are an in-between tumor - not quite benign and not quite malignant - according to the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation. They tend to grow so slowly that many people don't know they have them.

Doctors are not looking for the rare cancer either, said Dr. Richard Warner, medical director at the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation and a physician at Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

"The symptoms are so common, doctors think of common illnesses," Warner said. It's one reason the foundation has tagged the zebra as its mascot: Look for the unusual zebra, not the usual horse.

About one in 100 people develop small carcinoid cancers that don't spread and do not cause problems, according to the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation.

Only about one-quarter of people survive five years with carcinoid cancers that have spread to other parts of the body if they're not treated, according to the foundation. With treatment, cancer patients are able to live longer, Warner said.

In Lambert's case, by the time doctors diagnosed her carcinoid cancer, it had spread to her liver.

Lambert sought treatment at Louisiana State University, which has been on the leading edge of carcinoid research and treatment. There, doctors removed three golf-ball size tumors from her liver and used radiofrequency energy to kill four smaller lesions.

Chemotherapy and radiation don't work against Lambert's stage IV, mid-gut cancer, she said.

She takes medication to stymie the symptoms that led to her diagnosis and says she feels great.

The illness has given her a new focus in her life: Educating people about the cancer that stalked her.

"I have a desire to make that word more common knowledge," Lambert said. "It was just a totally foreign word to me."

Originally published August 12, 2005, The Colorandoan on-line