A New Purpose
In March 2012, I was a healthy 53-year-old, who was living an active life in South Florida. That all changed when I started experiencing shortness of breath and back pain that I likened to sciatica, followed later on by severe stomach pains in my upper abdomen. At first, I visited my local urgent care center and my symptoms were quickly dismissed. Then, after a night of debilitating pain, I went to the emergency room. The doctor on staff ordered a CT scan. When he returned to my room he indicated that there were spots on my pancreas, liver and lungs. At that time, I was admitted for further testing and a liver biopsy later confirmed I had Stage IV inoperable pancreatic cancer.
I was petrified.
The doctor on staff suggested I get a port inserted in my chest for chemotherapy treatments and then see the hospital’s pancreas oncologist. Upon waking up from the port surgery, the doctor and his nurse walked into my room. I asked him, “What’s my next step?” He replied, “It’s too late for you. Chemotherapy will not work. You will be gone within 8 months.”
The Right Place
Once I was discharged, I immediately got a second opinion at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. As soon as the doctor and his team at Sylvester walked into the exam room they made me feel comfortable. I knew I was in the right place. The doctor reassured me and said, ‘If your body can handle the treatment, it will work.”
The following week I began a chemotherapy treatment of FOLFIRINOX, which I continued for 17 months before going on ‘chemo holiday’ in July 2013, where I remain today. During treatment I weighed only 90 pounds, couldn’t eat, and developed neuropathy, painful nerve damage in my hands and feet. With each scan, my tumors began shrinking and my hope and determination increased. My most recent scans show no evidence of disease.
My treatment at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center—and the encouragement I received from the doctors and nurses while I was there—made all the difference in my treatment and recovery.
Hope is for Everyone
Today, I once again lead an active lifestyle and enjoy bike riding, fundraising for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and am a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council. I know how devastating receiving a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is and I want people to know that they should have hope. I share my story to inspire others and show them that they, too, can have a positive outcome.
Cancer tried to take my life, but instead, it gave me a new purpose.