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Cancer patient says she beat odds with positive attitude

Valarie Spiser-Albert celebrates 60th birthday, cancer survivorship at Cancer Care Centers of South Texas

Even when she was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer, Valarie Spiser-Albert said she was always determined not to let it get her down.

"The best thing to do when you're first diagnosed is to believe that you're going to be the person that kicks it, that gets over it," she said.

In August 2011, Spiser-Albert was diagnosed with colon cancer and then found out she also had cholangiocarcinoma, an extremely rare type of bile duct cancer.

Only about 2,000-3,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease every year.

The survival rate is grim.

"With Stage 4 or advanced bile duct cancer, the five-year overall survival (rate) is only 2 percent. That means only 2 percent will survive after five years from the time of diagnosis," said Dr. Ed Hesita, a medical oncologist with Cancer Care Centers of South Texas.

While the average survival rate is six months, Spiser-Albert has beat the odds for for more than two years.

"No one's really made it past five years but I believe I will," she said.

On Monday, Spiser-Albert was set to undergo her 68th session of chemotherapy. As a surprise, the staff at Cancer Care Centers of South Texas presented her with a birthday cake.

The staff said she has become an inspiration to them and to other patients because of her upbeat, positive attitude.

She often speaks at monthly support group meetings.

"She has a very infectious attitude, very positive and I think that's what's carried her along her journey," said Hesita.

"If you can look at everything that you do with joy, you're going to have a much better chance of fighting whatever it is that you're fighting, whether it be cancer or diabetes or any other type of a disease," said Spiser-Albert.

Although she admits there are some hard moments, she said her husband of 23 years helps pick her up on those rare moments when she's feeling down.

"I don't think I could have made it without my husband.  Whenever I have one of my down days, he's there to remind me, 'Remember, if you feel bad, cancer feels worse,'" she said.

Her advice to other cancer patients is to keep a positive attitude.

"Keep a good attitude," she said. "The best thing you can do is laugh at cancer and don't be afraid to say the word cancer."