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Case Study

The power of empowerment

Published September 8th, 2022

Cancer is a complex, ever-evolving disease where every step along the way presents a choice – and every choice has a consequence.

The challenge

In October of 2021, Aubrey, an energetic 31-year-old woman was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer. In the months after her diagnosis, Aubrey became overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices and potential outcomes before her.

While Aubrey had a talented medical team guiding her treatment plan, she came to PHM to more fully understand the entire array of treatment options and to support her in navigating the healthcare system.

PHM insights

Aubrey’s cancer was considered advanced, as it had spread to some distant lymph nodes. Under the supervision of a leading GI oncologist based in Houston, Texas, she underwent chemotherapy followed by radiation, the standard of care treatment for her type of cancer. After this initial treatment, she faced a critical decision about whether to have surgery, and she had to make that decision in less than eight weeks.

To help her make informed decisions with confidence, her dedicated PHM Personal Care Team arranged consults with leading colorectal surgeons from across the country who offered their opinions on her ongoing care plan. PHM helped Aubrey and her family translate those expert opinions into a set of treatment options. The team outlined the benefits and risks associated with the surgery, assessing the potential effect it would have on not only her cancer outcome, but her overall health.

Aubrey’s cancer not only had an impact on her day-to-day life, but it also affected the life she had been planning with her fiancé – a life that had included the possibility of children. Before starting her chemotherapy, PHM advocated that Aubrey undergo discussions with oncofertility specialists to review her options and implement a plan for fertility preservation.


Happily, Aubrey had a complete response to her initial chemotherapy and radiation treatment – meaning there was no evidence of disease on exam, imaging, or in the blood. After careful consideration, she decided to proceed without surgery and has taken a “watchful waiting” approach using an aggressive monitoring program to make sure that if her cancer comes back, it is detected at the earliest possible time. This includes use of innovative new blood tests every few months, which are highly sensitive and often able to detect a recurrence many months before it would show up on imaging. Having this proactive molecular surveillance plan in place allows Aubrey to feel confident in her decision.

PHM continues to play an essential role in her care by sharing scientific research to help her and her family understand how to best monitor her disease going forward.

The choices that come with a cancer diagnosis can mean life or death. PHM offers clinical and logistical support along with science-backed research and data that helps patients make some of the most important decisions they will ever have to make.

Today, Aubrey is moving forward with her life while continuing on her surveillance program. While she does not know what her future holds, Aubrey will face it the same way she has faced her cancer – empowered.           

* Name changed to protect privacy

* Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

About the Authors

Jodi Olson, MSN, FNP-C, CVNP-BC  

Clinical Director | Nurse Practitioner

Jodi Olson, FNP-C, is Director of Clinical Services at Private Health Management. Ms. Olson is board certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner and Cardiovascular Nurse Practitioner. She has more than twenty years of clinical nursing experience in rural health care, emergency medicine, general cardiology, electrophysiology, and structural heart care.

Gareth Morrison, PhD

Research Director

Dr. Morrison is Director of Research at Private Health Management. He has more than 15 years of experience in academic research, with the past eight years dedicated to advancing cancer research.