As part of a routine physical exam in December 2006, Nancy Stegman learned that her liver function test results were off the charts. She was immediately referred to UNC Lineberger for further testing. A series of tests showed biliary tree abnormalities which were likely cancer. The final test was to have been an ERCP – endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. However, during this procedure, her intestine was punctured and the careful diagnostic process was no longer possible. She had to have an 8-hour whipple procedure to correct the problem and to remove the cancer that had been detected. It was three days after the surgery before she was alert enough to understand her situation. Her family had already been given the devastating news – Nancy had a rare form of bile duct cancer called cholangiocarcinoma.
She began intense and extensive treatment at UNC Lineberger right away. Nancy says that she has met some wonderful skilled and caring people during her time here. She adds that she has been particularly impressed by the nurses who work so hard to give the patients a positive experience in such difficult circumstances.
Cholangiocarcinoma is a particularly uncommon disease. There is very little information about the course this cancer takes and effective treatments available. Nationally, so few people are affected that very little federal funding has been set aside to uncover the causes and help with better treatment options. Nancy and her husband, Mike, decided they wanted to contribute $120,000 to establish an endowment that will fund new ideas in bile duct cancer. Their gift included a 3:1 matching gift from Mike’s employer, the Mac-Arthur Foundation. Their hope is that these funds will contribute to an effort at UNC Lineberger to better understand such things as cancer mechanisms, genomics and other cancer biology that will assist in treating patients with cholangiocarcinoma.
In 2008 Nancy's physician, Dr. Richard Goldberg, told her that there were no further effective treatments available for her. Her cancer is progressing slowly, but Nancy knows that she will not personally reap the benefits of this gift. Her hope is that she is able to help others that struggle with this disease. Right now, she is focused on living each day to its fullest and recognizes that every day with her loving family, including her granddaughter, Hazel, is a gift.