Pancreas Cancer Web


I am a 50 year old female, a mother of two teenagers, wife of 21 years, a university professor, and a professional costume designer for film and theatre. I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Jan. of 2000, a 3 cm tumor in the head of the pancreas. At that time my symptoms were very minor: mild nasea, mild diarrhea, etc. I was in good physical condition, but I did not exercise regularly and I had a high- stress job. My normal weight was around 115 lbs. at 5'2'. I was diagnosed by a physicians assistant who just happened to be paying attention and ordered a sonogram 'just to see' what it might be. I had a whipple in Feb. of 2000 at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, Tex., performed by Dr. William Strodel( now at the Geisinger Clinic in Danville, Penn.). It involved my Messeric(sp?) artery, but Dr. Strodel was able to remove the tumor completely. My post-whipple biopsies were clear, as were my nodes. I recovered from the surgery very well, until- I started eating. At this point I had lost about 15 lbs.. Every time I ate I felt nauseous, I had abdominal spasms, and had a bad case of dumping syndrome. Five weeks later I began chemotherapy: of 5 flurourocel in a continuous drip for 3 weeks on, three weeks off. I lost another 10 lbs.. At the beginning of the third round they added radiation therapy 5 days a week for 3 weeks on and 3 weeks off along with the chemo. I proceeded through the regiment with great difficulty; all of my mucous membranes were inflamed, I became dehydrated then hospitalized twice. After 3 months of the combined treatment I was hospitalized again and discontinued my treatment at that time(I missed the last two rounds of treatment). At that time I weighed about 80 lbs. and was in terrrible shape. Eating continued to be a problem ( some things that seemed to help a little: always eat protein first(slows down digestion) and starches last(less nausea), try to walk or stay standing as long as possible after eating (the sooner I sat or laid down after eating the worse I felt), eat small meals (no more than one cup at a time) and eat more often(even now I eat around 1 cup of food every 2 hours(eight times a day; overeating caused me alot of pain, gas and dumping, and try to eat foods in their most natural state(processed foods seem to be harder for me to digest than fresh fruit, veggies and protein)dairy, fried foods and bread were and are still my problem foods. If you have to eat bread: eat it toasted well or eat crackers instead. Very slowly I began to feel a little better and eating became easier too. At around 9 months after surgery I began taking acidofalous to help rebuild my intestinal tract and that helped some. I took care of myself most of the time but my husband was always able to be there whenever I needed him. At about a year post surgery I was doing ok, then one of my CT scans came back suspect: something on my liver did not look good. I was going to get a biopsy but ended up having an ablation proceedure instead. To the best of my knowledge this is basically an electronic probe inserted into my liver which 'burned' the bad spot out. The liver regenerates itself with healthy tissue. I had this proceedure done at the UT Health Science Center, performed by Dr. Dodd (now the Dean of the Dept. of Radiology there). It was unintrusive, painless and had no side effects to speak of. The spot never returned and we never knew for sure if it was a metastasis, it was just gone. The next year I did pretty well; still struggling with trying to gain weight (I weighed about 95 most of that year) and eating without discomfort. It wasn't until the end of my second year that I saw a dramatic improvment in my eating, energy, concentration, etc.. I went to see a dietitian to help me gain weight. She recommended the following: taking L-Glutamine daily(a natural Amino acid that aids in digestion and helps the body to build muscle mass. You can find it at your local health food store), taking flax seed oil daily (this oil is a medium chain triglyceride and is easier for the body to absorb), eating small meals more frequently, and trying a 'diet' which matches the foods you eat to your blood type. I put 'diet' in quotes because it is not limiting like other diets; there are foods from every food group that you can eat. Three days after starting the diet I felt like a new person; I did not bloat, I did not have abdominal spasms, I was not nauseas and I actually felt energetic after I ate ! I have followed this plan religiously for two years and have since been able to go back to work full time, exercise regularly, take care of my children and husband, travel to Mexico and the Caman Islands with no problems. Basically I have been able to recapture my life the way I want it to be. I know everyone has different challenges with this disease but whether you are pre-surgery, post-surgery and especially if you are going through chemo and radiation right now-- I would hope this diet could help you feel better day to day and be stronger as well. I would of course be happy to communicate with anyone(especially caregivers) who might want to try to help someone who is suffering from this disease. I truly believe that what we eat drastically affects the way we feel. Even now if I eat some of the foods which are harder for me to digest, I have all the same symptoms all over again. As long as I eat well, have plenty of rest and water I will feel well. It is now almost 4 years since my surgery, I weigh around 100 lbs.(of solid muscle) I take yoga class 2 times a week(which really helps with strength and balance) and I have taken up a new sport; Equestian hunter/jumping. I even competed in a show and won champion in my class! I hope I have not bored you all to tears with my story but I can only hope reading this will help someone who needs it. Good luck, don't hesitate to message me with questions, sara from Texas

Posted 01/03/2004 05:08 pm by Sara in Texas
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