Pancreas Cancer Web


Photograph of Pamela Michele Rock

Pamela Michele Rock, 51, was diagnosed with a lesion in the tail of her pancreas on May 30, 2002. She had gone to her physician, a gastroenterologist, in December of 2000 with a complaint of pain under her left breast and near her sternum. She said it was worse when she lay down. I warned the doctor that Pam was a stoic and that it was very unusual for her to agree to see a doctor. The doctor ordered some tests on her heart, then an MRI of her spine, then sent her to an orthopedic specialist who put her in physical therapy. The pain got worse in physical therapy but was controlled by Bextra (a cox-2 inhibitor) once a day. Finally, on May 10, 2002, she was hospitalized for a night with severe pain in her stomach. She then decided to see a different gastroenterologist, who ordered the CT scan that revealed the lesion.

Dr. Andrew Warshaw, chief of surgery at Mass General, performed a distal pancreatectomy, splenectomy, partial proximal gastrectomy and pyloroplasty. He also had to skeletonize the celiac axis. Pathology reports revealed that there was a positive margin on the celiac axis. No signs of metastasis, and all 11 of 11 lymph nodes tested were negative.

Pam underwent continuous infusion 5FU and radiation for 10 days of a planned 28 day course, beginning September 9, 2002. The therapy had to be halted due to an extreme nausea reaction. Pam was hospitalized for 10 days and then spent much of October recovering from that therapy. She had a relatively decent November. We were able to host our annual Halloween party for our two children, ages 8 and 10, and we also hosted Thanksgiving for our family. A scan in November revealed likely metastasis to her abdominal wall and the outside of her liver.

On December 3, she began weekly infusions of Gemzar. Gemzar was not effective for her and only increased her problems with nausea and weight loss. She stopped treatments late in January and tried to stick with a variety of alternative treatments that she had begun in November. Much of February and March she showed great determination to defeat this disease and never expressed fear of dying, self pity or even doubt that she would not prevail. She died in her sleep on April 16, 2003.

Pam was a phenomenal business person. She was involved in selling advertising space for computer magazines and was considered to be at the top of her field. Rather than continue up the ladder in management, however, she scaled back her work in the early 1990s and decided to begin a family. We adopted a son in May 1993, a baby boy we named Kyle. Pam then got pregnant the following year, and we had our daughter, Sydney, in January of 1995. Pam flourished as a mom and gradually devoted more time to family and less time to business. She retired from her job in February, 2002, only 4 months before her diagnosis.

I am DCA, her caregiver. I am a former journalist, lawyer and business person now working with my brother in his hedge fund company. My wife chose to reserve all her strength for her fight, so I did the research to find the approaches I thought would help her the most. This board has been a terrific source of support, inspiration and information, and we thank JHU for hosting it and for all the dedicated professionals at JHU who are working to help patients today and save patients tomorrow through research and hard work. I pray your efforts prove fruitful and erase this scourge from the earth.

Posted 04/16/2003 06:25 am by DCA
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