Patient Stories

At MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, our patients are the heart and soul of our efforts to improve cancer care. Read their stories below, and learn why they chose to seek care from our team of experts.

Jennifer

Jennifer and Mike Attisano and others in a red convertible with Las Vegas skyline in background

Breast Cancer

Jennifer felt healthy as a horse — her career was going well, she had lost almost 50 pounds, and she was packing her bags for a trip to Las Vegas. Then her doctor paused while doing a routine breast exam. After choosing to receive care at Hollings, Jennifer was placed on a newly approved targeted therapy based on her specific breast cancer type, which dropped the number of tumors in her body from about 20 down to only two. “I came out fighting, and I have fought every step of the way,” she says. “And I think the number one thing that affects your recovery is your attitude.” Read Jennifer’s story

Donna

Donna Rosa sits in a golf cart with her grandchild

Skin Cancer

Donna treasures life’s smallest joys — like boating with her grandsons and making tasty tiramisu — more than most due to melanoma. It’s a disease she beat not once, but five times. When her cancer returned the second time, Donna was referred to Hollings Cancer Center, where chemotherapy was added as part of her treatment. "MUSC truly was the place that saved my life,” she says. Now in remission, Donna is making the most of her retirement by advocating for others to seek second opinions if they feel something is not right with their bodies. Read Donna’s story

Miranda

Miranda Brown kisses her husband Andrew on their wedding day as they stand on a bridge with their dog

Colon Cancer

Like any excited bride, Miranda had all the details nailed down: the dress, the location, and the grand European honeymoon. What she didn’t expect were all the stomach issues. After being diagnosed with advanced colon cancer, Miranda consulted with oncologists and surgeons at Hollings, who worked with her to ensure her wedding didn’t have to be postponed. When it came time for surgery, her doctors also took extra steps to make sure it wouldn’t impact her ability to have a family down the road. Now enjoying married life, Miranda says she’s thankful for the way her case was handled. Read Miranda’s story

Jim

Jim Devereaux laughs with his wife while standing outside.

Prostate Cancer

As a military veteran, Jim had been to war before. But amid a celebration of a lifetime of service, he found himself at battle again — this time with prostate cancer. Jim trusted his doctors at Hollings when he was offered a treatment plan that they assured him would provide the greatest chance of success. Now in remission, he’s spending his time offering free outreach and support for cancer patients and caregivers, matching them with trained volunteers. “Surviving cancer has given me a brand new perspective on life,” he says. “I try to give back and help others in any way that I can.” Read Jim’s story

Tammy

Tammy Grainger, cervical cancer survivor

Cervical Cancer

In 2017, Tammy was diagnosed with HPV-related cervical cancer and told she only had two weeks to live. Unable to wrap her head around the diagnosis, she decided to seek a second opinion at Hollings Cancer Center. Now, she’s helping others by raising awareness of the importance of screenings and encouraging families to have their children vaccinated for HPV. She keeps her spirits high by choosing from a collection of over a dozen wigs each morning and by cranking up the music in her truck. “I’m not going to give up,” she says. “I’m a very strong woman. I don’t let anything stop me.” Read Tammy’s story

Nick

Nick Charalambous with his bike

Lymphoma

When a 2013 bicycle accident left him with a broken back and neck, Nick thought he had experienced the worst. That was before the cancer diagnosis. After weeks of unanswered questions by a medical group in his hometown, he decided to make the drive to Charleston to see the oncology team at Hollings. There, he found the answers he needed. After a few months of treatment, Nick was back on his feet and dancing at a beach resort with his wife for their anniversary. He credits his oncologist at Hollings for getting him to be in the shape he’s in currently. "I just really don't think that I would be speaking to you right now if it hadn't been for his care,” he says. Read Nick’s story

Ratanya

Ratanya Manigault

Breast Cancer

At 20 weeks pregnant, Ratanya discovered she was expecting her second baby girl. A week later, she learned she had stage 2 breast cancer. Ratanya was referred to Hollings, where she received coordinated care from an oncologist, surgeon, and maternal fetal medicine specialist. She had a little over two weeks to recover from her planned C-section before she underwent a bilateral mastectomy, which removed the cancer from her lymph nodes. Now, thanks to her care team, she’s enjoying time with her “perfect” daughter and helping raise awareness. “They treat you like they are gonna beat this; they are gonna fight this with you. Like you’re not in it by yourself,” she says. Read Ratanya’s story

Thom

Thom Schmenk with bicycle

Sarcoma

Thom’s retirement began with a cancer diagnosis. When a golf ball-sized lump showed up on the side of his hamstring, he spent months bouncing between doctors, hoping for answers. After a referral led him to Hollings, Thom’s lump was given a name, and he received a combination of radiation and surgery. It has now been five years since he heard the words “cancer free.” Since then, he has authored two books and raised money for sarcoma research. “This five-year mark is my time to pay it forward,” he says. Read Thom’s story

 

Ken

Ken Drachman

Prostate Cancer

A biopsy following his son’s wedding left Ken with the answer he had been fearing. After talking with friends and family who had been through prostate cancer, Ken and his wife, Annette, knew Hollings was where they needed to be. During surgery, Ken’s doctors discovered that his cancer wasn’t contained, leaving it at a higher risk of recurrence. He was enrolled in a clinical trial that changed his life while also allowing him to help future cancer patients. “The study for us was a real opportunity for hope and an opportunity that he wouldn’t have to deal with this again in his lifetime,” says Annette. Read Ken’s story

Rick

Rick Hunt

Esophageal Cancer

Rick has worn a pair of Western-style cowboy boots for midnight strolls on the beach, early-morning runs, and most recently, while receiving the news that he is cancer free — for the second time. He first became a patient at Hollings in 2000, when he was told his chance of survival was less than 10%. An aggressive treatment plan put him in remission the following year. Seventeen years later, Rick’s cancer returned. He was treated by the same oncologist who treated him during his first cancer battle, and once again, he was in remission a year later. He’s grateful for the dedication of his care team. “These people know what they’re doing, and they are here to help you,” he says. Read Rick’s story