Nature’s Academy Founder and Executive Director, Dana Pounds, is living proof that “STEM” makes the world a better place. She was diagnosed in 1999 with desmoid tumors, a rare form of cancer that grows in the body’s connective tissues. She’s undergone extensive surgeries, treatments, and the amputation of her right leg in the 20 years since her diagnosis. Her most recent cancer-battling venture has continued forward progress for both Dana and others around the world seeking cancer treatments. Read on to hear the exciting news!
Dana is the fourth patient in the world to receive Tegavivint, a chemotherapy treatment currently going through clinical trials that she is a part of. Preparation for this trial was years in the making, requiring a cross-country move and extensive testing of everything from vision to hair to lungs. Her biggest motivator for participating in this trial was her ability to use her body to test the latest STEM solution for people with cancer worldwide.
The Tegavivint trial consists of a weekly infusion coupled with labs like bloodwork and imaging. After three trials in a row, patients are given a week off. Then the cycle starts back up! Dana’s latest news came after infusion number nine. While clinical trial standards require a certain size reduction to qualify as “effective,” we are ecstatic to announce that Dana’s tumor has shrunk by 15%. Her treatment is not, NOT working!
Dana’s come a long way from where she was 20 years ago physically, mentally, and spiritually. The beginnings of her cancer story were shrouded in despair and fear of not being enough. Shouldering both the physical and mental burden proved to be too much; Dana knew she needed a change.
Shedding the “black judgement robe,” Dana’s nickname for negative self-perception, was not an easy process. It involved changing everything about the desmoid tumor narrative including the words she used to describe herself. The largest contributor to her mental health? Saying “NO” to things that don’t contribute to healing. This mental shift gave her the traction she needed to find real solutions. Merging her understanding of STEM, appreciation for exercise, and love of nature, Dana relies on the latest medical advances while taking care of her body as nature intended. Her philosophy of “healing from the inside out” includes Pilates, essential oils, pumpkin seeds, and long hikes in the woods.
Dana credits her team at the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for maintaining an optimistic atmosphere amid the beeping machines and needles of the treatment room. From the start, the team shared Dana’s holistic attitudes about healing. Humor, transparency, and teamwork are the fundamentals for a healthy body, mind, and spirit. Everyone involved with her trials sees her as an equal investor, contributing to the patient’s narrative of internal strength.
Dana and Jim are beyond relieved for the tumor shrinking, but are ecstatic at what this means for the cancer community as a whole. Her decades of experiences, “healing from the inside out” philosophy, and contribution of herself as a STEM tool tester have laid the groundwork for a better, faster, and more effective cancer treatment experience for people around the world. In light of this forward progress, Dana calls on new STEM professionals to turn their eye toward medical technologies. Internal imaging that can measure a tumor’s volume are the forefront of this call to action. This technology could accurately track a tumor’s constantly shifting sizes and positions, making it easier to track a treatment’s effects.