A Life Filled with Love and Fun
I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after experiencing stomach pain and heartburn, which prompted me to make an appointment with my doctor. However, before I could make it to the appointment, I developed jaundice and needed to be seen immediately. An ultrasound and endoscopy confirmed my diagnosis—pancreatic cancer.
I had no family history of pancreatic cancer, never smoked, was not overweight, did not have diabetes and was completely surprised by the news. I was only 58 years old at the time of my diagnosis.
My family and I were shocked at first and experienced all of the typical emotions associated with a cancer diagnosis, especially one as statistically dismal as mine. But I knew that I needed to maintain a positive attitude both for the success of my treatment and the well-being of my family. I decided to be treated at a high-volume cancer center in New York City due to their impressive reputation and my belief that I would be in the best hands possible by doing so.
The Plan Was to Fight
My cancer was locally advanced Stage III, but was inoperable due to the involvement of a blood vessel. The surgeon referred me for chemotherapy and radiation and told me to get my affairs in order. At my initial meeting with my oncologist, she prescribed the potent chemotherapy FOLFIRINOX and I was told that if I didn’t respond well, I might only have three to six months to live. But I told my oncologist that I was a fighter and expected to be one of those patients that she became amazed by.
After 3 months on FOLFIRINOX, followed by radiation therapy, the tumor had shrunk significantly, and the surgeon felt I was a candidate for the Whipple procedure.
I underwent surgery, but it was unsuccessful due to the involvement of the blood vessel and was aborted. Amazingly, the tumor became dormant and I was not on any treatment for two years. I was monitored every 3 months with scans to confirm stability, and it wasn’t for quite a while that the tumor began to grow again.
Knowing What is Important
I was put back on the FOLFIRINOX, but it was ineffective. I then began treatment on gemcitabine/Abraxane, which stabilized the tumor. Currently, I am still on this treatment, and my most recent scan showed that although the tumor has grown, it has not metastasized.
Having cancer has made me stronger, produced a deeper appreciation for all of life’s blessings and strengthened my ties to family and friends. I am grateful to have the love and support of an amazing team of people in my corner. It’s a cliché, but a valid one, that such challenges can bring out the best in you and help you see what is really important. A cancer diagnosis immediately makes “sweating the small stuff” a thing of the past. Today, I look at every moment as a gift and try to pack as much love and fun into my life as possible.
My Advice to Newly Diagnosed Patients
Put yourself into the hands of medical professionals that you trust, and don’t let statistics determine your outlook. There are exciting new advances being made in research all the time, and there are more researchers and labs working on this disease than ever before. I truly believe that a positive attitude is necessary to help your body fight this disease.