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Pancreas Cancer

my story was posted 09/30/1999 10:03 pm by father of four
E-mail Address: straussw@bellatlantic

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Here's my story. I'm in my early 50s, and have always been in good health--until recently. Around the first of July of this year, I started feeling just a little bit down in energy, and then my urine darkened, so I saw my physician. He rushed me through a series of tests, and by mid-July, a CAT-scan and ectoscopy revealed a pancreatic tumor. In the back of my mind, I realized how lethal this disease was, and I came to grips with the fact that, even though I felt fine enough, and had a wonderful wife and four kids (age 15-22), I could very well be in the early stages of dying. I kept my spirits up by swimming and biking, charged ahead with the medical process, and had the good fortune of arranging for John Cameron, head of surgery at JHU, to give me a whipple on August 9. I was told to expect a malignancy of the usual sort, requiring chemo and radiation. Several of my professional colleagues, and many family friends, probed the web and talked among themselves, though not with me or my family, about how poor my long-term chances were. Then, on August 13, came the biopsy. Hallelujah. My tumor, though fairly large (3 cm), was of an "indolent" (oh, how I love that word now!) non-aggressive endocrine islet sort. It was either benign or, if malignant, it showed no signs of ever having drifted away from its own little lump of flesh. Everything tested negative, and my insides were clean. Dr. Cameron gave me the good news that, from what the pathologists could see, I'm fixed. No need for chemo or radiation, just periodic CAT-scans to keep an eye on things. I'm recovering from the whipple just fine. It took six weeks, and I had abdominal pains from time to time, but now I'm solidly back to work, bicycling, etc. Despite my doctors' optimism, I still worry that maybe I'm not over this thing, that some future CATscan film will twist up my life yet again, whether from pancan or something else. But as of right now, I could not have imagined a better outcome, for me and my family. And, don't you know, the sky above has never been a brighter shade of blue. After reading the experiences of others on this site, I first hesitated posting this, but then decided I should share my story as an offering of hope that perhaps, in time, more people can beat this mean disease. Perhaps, in time, more and more people will receive the kind of news I did. For those of you who are recently diagnosed and scheduled for a whipple at JHU or elsewhere, let me say: Good luck, my friends. My prayers are with you. Let me offer a few practical tips, for those facing a whipple. (1) get a single room (only $5/day extra at JHU), (2) keep the TV set off and relaaaaax with comforting music instead (piano/flute/native-American did the trick for me), (3) bring some pillows from home, (4) get off the morphine as soon as it makes sense, (5) work on the breathing machine, and walk walk walk, (6) don't get a phone, and (7) apart from your family, limit your visitors. I spent eight days at JHU, and, looking back, after maybe the third day, it wasn't so bad at all. I spent several warm evenings sitting on the outside porch at that lovely old Marburg 2 wing, reading by the reflective light of the old blue dome. I grew to admire that dome so much. Without the research done there over the last decades, including by my own physician, Dr. Cameron, my condition would have been untreatable and perhaps fatal. I truly felt that, at JHU, I was receiving the best medical care available anywhere in the history of the world. I am grateful beyond words.

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