Melrose woman shares pancreatic cancer survival story


MELROSE, Wis. (WXOW) – Mary Woods is one of the few people in the world who can say she is a pancreatic cancer survivor.

According to Gundersen Health System’s Cancer Center Director Dr. Kurt Oettel, pancreatic cancer is discovered too late for surgery in 85% of patients.

Mary Woods is not one of those patients.

Woods associated her success story with early detection, good luck and a positive attitude.

“Faith, family and medical intervention all worked for me,” Woods said. “Dr. Oettel said my body loved chemo and as I progressed with my chemo basically my tumor was basically gone.”

The cancer was detected early because Woods went to see her physician after she lost five pounds in one week.

According to the American Cancer Society, only 9% of pancreatic cancer patients survive more than five years after diagnosis.

“Most other patients look at this and say, ‘Dang it. I see the numbers and I know how this looks. Things are just going to play out as they are and when they occur I won’t be surprised.”’ Dr. Oettel said. “And that was never her. She has a strong faith. I think that kept her grounded.”

Doctors discovered Woods’ cancer at stage one, which contributed to her survival. Dr. Oettel said doctors typically discover it too late, like in Alex Trebek’s case.

Woods was 65 when diagnosed only one year and a half after her brother passed away from pancreatic cancer.

She wrote a book called “The Coincidences of Cancer” with the proceeds benefitting the “Paula’s Purse” foundation at Gundersen.