I am a 62 year old woman surviving with Pancreatic Cancer. The following is my story.
The Medical Part
I was diagnosed in August of 2004 with adenocarcinoma in the head of the pancreas. The problems began in July of 2003 when I was experiencing some difficulty swallowing and had lost about 10 lbs; I also developed severe anxiety. I was treated with anti anxiety medication as I was experiencing symptoms of panic attack (which I had never had before). It was also suggested that I take digestive enzymes at the time to aid in digestion. This treatment gave some relief from symptoms for about 10 months although I had drastically altered my diet and was still experiencing digestive upset. In May of 2004 I developed mid-epigastric pain which radiated to my back, bloating and pain following eating. In August of 2004, I developed jaundice, dark urine and clay colored stools, and extreme discomfort following eating, as well as a lack of appetite. A CT revealed a 6x6 cm mass in the head of the pancreas with a dilated duct. An ERCP with stent placement and laparoscopy revealed well-differentiated pancreatic adenocarcinoma. A retro portal node demonstrated malignant invasion, the Whipple attempt was aborted. From September of 2004 to December of 2004 I underwent 3 cycles of Gemzar and Oxaliplatin followed by concurrent chemoradiation with gemcitabine and taxol. In January 2005 I underwent a subtotal pancreatectomy w/ cholecystojejunostomy (Whipple) revealing a 1.7 x 1.5cm pancreatic adenocarcinma (quite a good response form the chemo) with direct extension of cells seen in the common bile duct.
In March of 05 I began 6 additional cycles of Gemcitabine/oxaliplatin. There was no progression of the disease following this treatment. In February of 2005 my tumor marker CA 19-9 was 54.
A CT in November of 2006 showed an enlarging mass in the lung approv 1.9 x 1.8cm. CA 19-9 risen to 158. Biopsy showed pathology consistent with pancreatic adenocarcinoma. From Jan 2007 to April 2007 I had chemotherapy with Gemcitabine Cisplatin and Tarceva. On May 14, 2007 I had a lower lobectomy of the left lung. Continue to be followed, so far most recent CT on July 9, 2008 shows no evidence of disease and the CA 19-9 in normal range. I was initially treated locally at my community hospital; had consults with both MGH and JHH; I am currently being followed by David Ryan at Mass General.
The emotional part.
For one year, I felt pretty lousy. I had a feeding tube; I lost 30 lbs. (I am 5 feet tall); the road was long and challenging. My husband, three children and their spouses, and my 5 grandchildren gave me motivation, care, love and support. That, coupled with the “Blah Blah” Sisterhood, a fabulous group of women who did everything from wash my hair to taking me to treatments and making me laugh were instrumental to my being here today. My spiritual beliefs have sustained my; Life is a journey and Death is part of that journey. While we are here, we can choose to live that life to our best ability, the rest is in the hands of a Power much greater than I.
To my fellow travelers on this journey:
I know that I have been very fortunate in my treatment and healing. I continue to live each day in gratitude. I hope that my story gives some hope to those struggling.