Woman wins fight against rare tumor

July 31, 2003 12:00 am

By MIKE MORRIS

Shane Oxley's days were numbered.

A rare tumor on her pancreas, which four out of a million people have, was eating away at her body and mind — and she didn't know it.

What she did know was that a force beyond her control was taking over her life.

Normally an athletic person, Oxley, 55, had no energy and couldn't sleep properly. She constantly suffered from painful cramps, extreme depression and memory loss.

But for years, the insulinoma, a hard-to-find tumor of the pancreas that overproduces insulin, went undiagnosed.

Doctors first concluded she was a severe hypoglycemic — someone who has very low blood sugar. They told her to limit her exercising and adjust her diet.

The then-unknown tumor, however, continued to deteriorate her body, and Oxley's dangerously-low blood sugar levels eventually caused her to hit rock bottom.

About a year ago, her erratic behavior kept her confined to her Columbia home.

"I was a walking time bomb," said Oxley, a retired gift shop owner.

It was clear that either the disease was going to kill her or she was going to kill herself.

"I thought a couple of times about just getting a gun and going off into the woods and just ending it because I couldn't stand living like that," Oxley said.

"It's really hard when you're in peak physical condition, and you've worked for years to get that way, then all of a sudden you lose it and no one can tell you why."

Then Oxley met an Angels Camp doctor who helped save her life.