We received the horrible news on a sunny day in August of 2002. She called us all for a family meeting. I remember calling my sister Lynn on the phone prior to the meeting, with dread in my heart. I just knew something was very wrong. I remember saying to Lynn, 'I hope it isn't breast cancer.' ....pancreatic cancer never even entered our minds. She told us at that meeting that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She didn't even cry when she told us-at that moment I felt like I had been hit with a brick falling from the sky. My world at that very moment was forever changed. I guess I always assumed she would be there for me, because she always had been.
GS gave tumor bast*ard, as I often called him on the board, a hell of a fight. As her tumor was in the tail, they offered her a distal pancreatectomy. She refused the surgery-she was an extremely independent person and she didn't want to give up what quality of life she might have left. As a nurse, she also knew how brutal the recovery could be, and that unfortunately, more often than not, the cancer comes back. She spoke to Ann Walsh of the Lustgarten Foundation, (for whom we will be forever grateful) who encouraged her to try a clinical trial. She went on a combination of Gemzar and Exatecan Mesylate and did very well-she was on this chemo combination for approximately a year. During this time, she enjoyed a wonderful quality of life.She lived alone, walked her beloved dog Lady several times a day in the wooded area near her home, did her own errands, food shopping etc. It is important to note that during this entire year she was on numerous supplements which we feel helped contribute to her well being. She was on Omega 3 fish oil, Selenium, Celebrex, Mgn3, and Green Tea. She never cried-at least not in front of us. We cried. We got angry. We cursed and questioned. She often cited Rainmaker's line...' I have two kinds of days-good days and great days.' She was our warrior. Eventually when the tumor began to grow she tried Gemzar with Iressa. Later she tried Gemzar with Taxotere. This would be her last chemo-her oncologist should have given her a steroid prep, and he failed to do so. A few days later she was admitted to the hospital with congestive heart failure. This was the beginning of the end. Her pain began to worsen-in the end she had been on Duragesic Patches, had a celiac nerve block performed, (didn't really work for her), was on Methanol, Roxinol, Actiq, and other meds. When she died, I feel she was ready to die-her quality of life was gone. She no longer could take care of Lady-she could no longer drive her car. She was becoming the cancer patient she never wanted to become. While I couldn't bear the thought of losing my best friend, in the end I felt I was as ready for her death as I ever could be, as I couldn't stand seeing her in pain. I miss her so-we all do.She was a wonderful person.
GS was a big supporter of the Lustgarten Foundation, located in Westbury, New York-they donate the money they receive to research for finding a cure for this dreaded cancer. GS walked in the Lustgarten Walk of 2003 while in her 11th month of pancreatic cancer. It was her dream to walk again in July of 2004. We, her children, and grandchildren, will walk for her. I promise to walk for as long as I am able. I have to believe, just have to believe, that someone, somewhere, will discover a cure.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank Johns Hopkins for this message board. I have gathered information here, cried here, and laughed here. I have formed some wonderful friendships that I know will last for years to come. I don't know how I could have walked this terrible path with my Mom, without this board's support.