Richmond resident Jessica Pantoja was just 18 years old when she received shocking news: she had stage 4 ovarian cancer. She needed a life-saving option.
For months, Pantoja had been experiencing abdominal distension and weight gain, among other symptoms. When Charles Conlon, M.D., oncologist at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, examined her for the first time, he immediately ordered a CT scan that showed a large tumor.
Conlon sent Pantoja directly to the emergency room and called Tarrik Zaid, M.D., a surgeon with Houston Methodist Gynecologic Oncology Associates. Zaid met Pantoja and her parents at the hospital to facilitate her admission. The next morning, in a complex surgical procedure, he removed a tumor from her abdomen weighing nearly 20 pounds.
“Jessica was very, very sick,” Zaid recalled. “In these types of cases, time is of the essence.” When she regained some strength following her hospital stay, Pantoja underwent four cycles of chemotherapy with Conlon. Today, she is 20 years old, cancer-free and planning to attend veterinary school.
“The whole thing was very overwhelming, and shocking,” she said. “When you are 18, you don’t expect to have ovarian cancer. But the staff at Houston Methodist Sugar Land made the experience so much easier for me. Dr. Conlon, Dr. Zaid, Sarah Snow and all the other nurses – became like a family to me.”
For gynecologic cancer patients, the continuum of care available at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital provides a beacon of hope, allowing them to receive the best possible care – close to home.
Supported by the latest technology and highly skilled staff, Houston Methodist Sugar Land medical oncologists, surgical oncologists and radiation oncologists, develop and implement customized treatment plans that are saving lives. “At Houston Methodist Sugar Land, we treat even the most complex, advanced gynecologic cancers,” Zaid said. “Our collaborative approach is a tremendous benefit to patients, because our oncology team works closely to ensure that we are providing the most effective combination of treatments in a coordinated manner. And for many patients, having the hospital close to home reduces the stress and worry of ongoing treatment and follow-up.”
With state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging technology, robotic surgical systems and the TrueBeam radiation therapy system, Houston Methodist Sugar Land oncology specialists are changing the way newly diagnosed patients view their treatment options.
Pam Jacobsen was diagnosed with stage 3 endometrial cancer in 2013. At the time, she was living in Richmond and didn’t want to travel back and forth to the Medical Center for treatments. “I have several friends who are doctors, and they all told me that they had complete confidence in Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital and the physicians there,” she said. “I knew then that it was the right decision for me.”
After surgery with Zaid, Jacobsen underwent radiation treatment with Clive Shkedy, M.D., radiation oncologist with Houston Methodist Cancer Center at Sugar Land, followed by six cycles of chemotherapy with Zaid.
“My treatment wasn’t easy, but I was very comfortable with the staff, and it was as good an experience as you can have with cancer,” she said. “It was a seamless process, and they even set up my radiation treatments around my work schedule.”
Today, Jacobsen is cancer-free and living in Tyler, Texas, and she still travels to Sugar Land every six months for follow-up.
“The hospital staff is amazing,” she said. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
Courtney Simeone grew up in Sugar Land and moved to Livingston, Texas, to teach elementary school. In 2014, she began experiencing heavy bleeding and pain, and after being misdiagnosed, she came to Sugar Land desperate to find the cause of her severe symptoms.
She was evaluated at Houston Methodist Sugar Land’s ER and was referred to Zaid. Due to her heavy vaginal bleeding, large pelvic masses and blood clots found in her heart and lungs, Zaid immediately had her admitted in preparation for surgery.
Zaid diagnosed her with stage 4 endometrial cancer. Post-surgery, she received radiation treatment with Shkedy and chemotherapy with medical oncologist Jorge Darcourt, M.D.
“Everyone worked together so well,” she said. “Dr. Zaid shared my case with Dr. Shkedy and Dr. Darcourt before each of my initial visits, so I didn’t have to tell my story over and over again. It felt great to know I had a team of specialists on my side who were talking to each other about my case.”
Simeone is cancer-free and thankful for the doctors, nurses and staff at Houston Methodist Sugar Land who cared for her.
“I got to know so many people at the hospital, and all of them were awesome,” she said. “Even now when I go back for follow-ups, people remember me. I am extremely thankful for them, because they saved my life!”
Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Tarrik Zaid, call 281.275.0880