In 2005, violinist Treesa Gold became concerned when she began
experiencing weight gain, hair loss and acne. She saw a doctor, who
told her, “You’re 24 and healthy. Stop being paranoid.”
Unsatisfied with this response, she saw an endocrinologist a few
months later. After reviewing her bloodwork, he ordered a CT scan,
which revealed a 13-centimeter adrenal gland tumor. Treesa was diagnosed with
adrenocortical carcinoma. A surgeon removed the
tumor, along with her left kidney.
But Treesa knew she needed to see someone with extensive experience
in treating adrenal gland tumors for the next phase of her treatment.
“My doctor said, ‘I will only see one case of this in your lifetime,
and you want to go somewhere where they see many of these cases,’” she recalls.
Adrenal gland tumor treatment
In less than a month, Treesa traveled from New Orleans to Houston
for her first appointment at MD Anderson.
“My doctor was the first person who talked bluntly to me about my
diagnosis,” Treesa says, recalling that her doctor told her that
adrenocortical carcinoma has a very high recurrence rate. “But I
needed to hear that to prepare for treatment.”
Because adrenal gland tumors don’t typically respond to traditional
chemotherapy, our doctors started Treesa on a half-gram of a type of
oral chemotherapy called Mitotane, which treats adrenal gland tumors
by suppressing adrenal gland hormone production. She was gradually
given higher doses.
“My medical team was so incredibly kind and thorough,” she says. “I
don’t think I’ve ever been cared for like I was at MD Anderson, from when I parked my car to when
I left for the airport.”
Gratitude for every moment
Throughout chemotherapy, Treesa continued playing the violin with
the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. “I just wanted to continue doing
what I love,” she says. “I never missed a rehearsal or a gig. I could
make it to a break and then throw up."
She and her husband, Matt, cherished life like never before. “I felt
so grateful for every single moment,” she says. “When I would play a
Christmas tune, I was so emotional. I would think, ‘This could be the
last time.’ I felt like everything in my life beyond that point of
having cancer was just a bonus.”
Treesa continued taking Mitotane for more than a year while her
doctors monitored her for signs of recurrence. After that, her doctor
decided to try taking her off of Mitotane.
While she was relieved to be rid of the nausea, Treesa was still
nervous about a recurrence. So she continued coming to MD Anderson for regular checkups. “When my
doctor would talk about the future, I would think, ‘I’m going to make
it to see 30!’” she says.
Life after adrenal cancer
Now, 11 years after her initial adrenal gland tumor diagnosis,
Treesa is still cancer-free.
In July, she and her husband welcomed a daughter, Kit Alexandria. “I
really do think that if I hadn’t gone to MD
Anderson, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have had my daughter
if they hadn’t been there, and if they had just chosen regular
chemotherapy,” she says. “I always felt very confident that my doctors
were going to consider what was best for me and would keep me alive.”
Today, Treesa is also keeping hope alive for other adrenal gland
tumor patients that she meets through a Facebook group. “My advice to
them is to do what they need to do to survive,” she says. “The main
thing I say is: make sure you have good people on your team for
treatment. Go somewhere where they know your cancer.”
Request an appointment at MD
Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.