Fernando's story

Those Three Words


There is one three-word statement we always remember, but don’t want to hear: “You have cancer.”

After delivering this crushing news, my doctor told me I should find a surgeon, but I was paralyzed by fear that everything I took for granted, including my family and friends, would disappear.

Prior to my diagnosis, I was suffering from a grinding pain in my abdomen, fatigue, cloudy whites of my eyes, jaundice and intolerable itching which began around my chest and progressively spread until I itched from head to toe. Nothing could relieve it. I was lucky these symptoms appeared early, and the tumor was detected at a treatable stage, as most patients are not diagnosed until the disease has progressed.

I underwent the only potential “cure:” a surgical procedure known as the Whipple, and my surgery was a success. Only 15-20% of patients are eligible for this surgery.

More Survivors Each Year

Following surgery, my wife saw an ad in our Long Island newspaper for the Lustgarten Foundation’s pancreatic cancer research walk, and I discovered 100% of donations directly fund research. Less than one month after my surgery, my family and I attended a walk. Unfortunately, most participants walked in memory of someone who died from this disease, and I met only one other survivor. A couple years later, there were nearly a dozen survivors at the walk’s Survivors’ Tent. Following a move to Florida, I started attending the Foundation’s annual Fort Myers Walk and have met more survivors each year.

Last February, I attended my 13th Lustgarten Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk held in Fort Myers, Florida. And coincidentally, June marked the 13th year since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The number 13 has negative connotations, but in this case, it is indeed a fortunate one for a number of reasons.

It means that I have been able to attend 13 walks in as many years, 13 walks where I have met many wonderful survivors and shared in their stories, their struggles and their fears. I’ve talked to the survivors’ loved ones, wives, husbands, children, family and friends whose love and emotional support in many ways is half the battle for those stricken with pancreatic cancer.

It means that I have had the opportunity to wish my wife a happy anniversary and to sing happy birthday to my grandchildren 13 more times. It means 13 more years to speak with my children and gather at family reunions. Every moment we live is a gift. I am grateful for the loving support and advocacy that my wife Katherine has shown in finding the best medical resources available at the time. I am also grateful to the Lustgarten Foundation, as their funded research is slowly paving the way for earlier detection and new treatments.

To commemorate my 13 years as a survivor, I invite everyone impacted by this disease to join our pancreatic cancer community at a Lustgarten Walk. Community is power, and together we can raise awareness and drive funds to research, ultimately transforming fear into action and supporting the best science to transform pancreatic cancer into a curable disease.

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