Baylor professor helps others through cancer research

Posted at 8:36 PM, Feb 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-04 22:46:11-05

At age 24, Leigh Greathouse received the worst news, she was diagnosed with stage IV Uterine Leiomyosarcoma.

It started when she was feeling unusual and had extreme pain in her stomach.

"I was beginning to faint, and I realized something was horribly wrong," Greathouse said. 

Doctors couldn't understand why her stomach was experiencing the pain, bloated and hard. She went in for surgery and they removed a mass the size of a grapefruit on top of her uterus.

After Greathouse was discharged from the hospital, they called her and told her the news that would change her life. With her faith in God and strong-willed nature she knew she would be fine.

"I knew everything was going to be OK, I just had to get through this and I was going to be fine," Greathouse said. 

Undergoing a radical hysterectomy and then six rounds of chemotherapy, in just eight months Greathouse was cancer free. 

"It gave me a lot of strength I didn't know I had," Greathouse said. 

Even though she was cancer free, going through extensive abdominal surgery left Greathouse with a pain she couldn’t escape. It wasn’t until her physical therapist talked to her about a tactic called fascial release.  

“They are adhesions that keep your intestines together, except mine were stuck together too much, they needed room to move around,” said Greathouse.  

Her experience with cancer gave her the courage to become a cancer biologist and is now working in her own research lab at Baylor. 

Along with being a cancer biologist, she is a registered dietitian. An unusual pair, before she was diagnosed, Greathouse was focusing on nutrition in college. She became passionate about cancer prevention after experiencing it hands on. 

"Understanding how the bacteria in your body mainly your gut can either increase or decrease risk for cancer, " Greathouse said. 

One of the biggest things that influences the bacteria in your gut, your diet. 

"I've been really passionate about trying to be able to understand how to manipulate the bacteria in your gut through your diet to prevent cancer," Greathouse said. 

Greathouse changed her diet once diagnosed, living a healthier lifestyle, it helped her tremendously. She hopes her research can help others try the same thing. 

Not only is she dedicated to her research but her students as well. 

"Starting with the women in the academy mentor group. She is a mentor with purpose, she's doing it on purpose," said Dani Crain, a Baylor Ph.D. candidate.

Before her students even come to her, Greathouse will go to them with tips about their class or career. 

"She'll give you podcasts, or articles that she thinks can really help you. She's constantly looking for them," Crain said. 

Greathouse does all this work simply to help others.

“It's part of my purpose in life, is to help people and give them hope,” Greathouse said.

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