A Life-Saving Epiphany 

Posted On Mar 15, 2024

Topic: Announcement, Hide on Homepage, Real Talk: Survivor, Patient & Family Stories, Your Source for Breaking News & Inspirational Stories
A Life-Saving Epiphany 

Dr. Elizabeth Legatt 

In 2019, retired obstetrician/gynecologist and thyroid cancer survivor Dr. Elizabeth Legatt, then 68, suddenly became prediabetic, and she didn’t know why. There had been no change in her weight, diet, or lifestyle. Her doctor attributed it to her getting older, but she knew there must be another reason. 

Then came her middle-of-the-night, potentially life-saving epiphany: Something was wrong with Elizabeth’s pancreas.  

Elizabeth has a family history of pancreatic cancer, as her mother passed away from the disease when she was 86. Plus, the pancreas is responsible for making insulin, and when the body doesn’t use insulin effectively or produce enough insulin, this could cause prediabetes and then diabetes.  

Elizabeth pleaded with her doctor to order an MRI, and she was devastated when the MRI confirmed her worst fear: a cyst in her pancreas. While most pancreatic cysts are harmless and can be safely monitored with MRIs, Elizabeth’s cyst was a more worrisome branching cyst. Her biopsy showed the cyst to be an Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasm (IPMN)—a precursor lesion that can progress into invasive pancreatic cancer if left untreated. Six months later, it had tripled in size, prompting the immediate need for laparoscopic surgery before the IPMN could progress to pancreatic cancer. 

In January 2021, Dr. John Chabot, Executive Director of the Pancreas Center and Chief of GI/Endocrine Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, performed laparoscopic surgery to remove one-third of Elizabeth’s pancreas—specifically the tail where the cyst was located—and her spleen. Her recuperation went smoothly, and she resumed her normal routine three weeks post-surgery. Her procedure was considered curative and no further treatment was needed. She undergoes annual MRIs to ensure the remaining two-thirds of her pancreas is healthy, and this year, her surgeon told her she doesn’t need to return for two years! 

“I consider myself unbelievably lucky, and I’m so grateful for every day that I’m alive. The prediabetes was a blessing because it compelled me to search for answers that eventually led to the MRI where my IPMN was discovered,” Elizabeth shared. “I urge any adults with sudden onset of prediabetes or diabetes to recognize that this may be a sign of a pancreatic cyst or pancreatic cancer, and to please speak to your doctor about having an MRI.”  

Now, Elizabeth is focused on volunteering in her community, spending time with her family (including her grandchildren), and raising awareness of sudden onset prediabetes as a potential warning sign of an issue with the pancreas. “I’ve been chosen to live, and I’m making every day count,” she shared. 

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