I’m Not Going Anywhere

When you’re an active 25-year-old music teacher and hockey player, cancer is far from your mind. So when Holly Woods, of Dublin, Ireland, learned a malignant tumor in her esophagus was the cause of her pain and difficulty swallowing, “I still didn’t think cancer,” she said.

Until then, she added, “I thought cancer was something only older people get. I didn’t know anybody my age who had ever been diagnosed with it.”

Before her tumor could be removed, Holly had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation. She then had an esophagostomy, which removed the tumor as well as part of her stomach and esophagus. “The surgery was massive. I had to learn how to eat again,” she said.

Looking back, she credits her positive attitude and sense of humor with helping her and her family through the tough days. Holly worked hard to get her life back and returned to teaching and exercising. However, one year later, her oncologist called. He needed to see her immediately about a scan she had earlier that week.

“In that moment, everything collapsed,” she said. “I knew the cancer had come back.” Holly wanted to fight and told her doctor, “I have stuff I’m doing with my life and I’m going to do it. I’m not going anywhere.”

“I am back to making plans and thinking about life.”

– Holly

After discussing her options, Holly’s doctor pursued, and successfully gained, pre-approval access to Opdivo (nivolumab), which was at the time also being studied as an adjuvant therapy for patients with resected esophageal or gastroesophageal junction cancer following neoadjuvant chemoradiation therapy (CRT).

Eight weeks after her first infusion, the tumor had shrunk and there was no sign of others.

Now, two years later, Holly has no evidence of disease. “I am back to making plans and thinking about life,” she said.

In January 2021, the European Medicines Agency validated BMS’ Marketing Authorization Application for Opdivo as an adjuvant treatment for esophageal or gastroesophageal junction cancer in adult patients with residual pathologic disease after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy and resection. The application is based on results from the CheckMate-577 trial.