In mid 2003 I was having chronic stomach pain and was diagnosed with an ulcer. I was put on various stomach medications that seemed to help, but a few months later the pain returned. Another round of medications to help with pain and symptoms was in my near future. In the meantime I had lost about 40 lbs which was contributed to a recent divorce and the worn out feeling I was having was chalked up to the stress I had been under.
On August 1, 2004 I woke up with stomach and back pain, but not enough to really make me do anything about it. The pain got worse over the course of the week and by Friday the 6th I was walking doubled over. The orthopedic doctor (knees, hips, arms doc) that I was working for at the time told me, 'I'm not an expert in the stomach field but it looks as if you need to see someone who is.' No kiddin' doc! He referred me to a friend of his. She drew blood and my amalayse and lipase came back between 1500 and 2000. By Thursday of the next week I had had a CT scan, a biopsy and was told that I had a pancreatic mass.
I was referred to a local surgeon who said, 'Not to worry! Nothing is wrong. It's just a pseudocyst and you'll be fine.' He said he would see me back in 3 months. It had been over a year since the pain and symptoms started and I had a gut feeling (no pun intended) that something was NOT right. I ended up referring myself to the James Cancer Hospital at the Ohio State University.
On September 22, 2004 I underwent a Whipple which was performed by Dr. Henry Kaufman and Dr. Mark Bloomston. Basically the head of my pancreas (which sits behind the stomach...hence stomach pain) was removed. The 'plumbing' was reconnected and I didn't eat for 2 weeks. Now, I don't recommend this procedure for weight loss for ANY reason...it wasn't pleasant from what I remember...which due to the awesome drugs, actually isn't much. I spent the next six weeks healing and eventually started chemo (oral Xeloda 1500mg in the AM and 1500mg in the PM) and radiation (28 rounds or so of it). Once the treatments were over (the last on December 13, 2004) my surgeon told my family that if I had waited the 3 months as the local surgeon wanted, the cancer would have metastisized and I wouldn't have been so lucky. The final diagnosis was stage I-B Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Carcinoma.
My family pulled together and between my father, mother, and aunt care was provided. My friends, neighbors, the moms my son's school and total strangers took turns bringing dinner for us for 4 months. I never knew how helpful and caring people could be in the time of need.
So, here I am 2 1/2 years later being a mom to an awesome 11 year old son
(who is growing up VERY fast by the way), a full-time student completing my
degree in social work (I had to go back to finish what I started years ago),
I'm spending the rest of my life with my best friend and true love, and
working as a volunteer with the American Cancer Society. It's funny...when
you go through a life threatening event, your whole perspective of life gets
changed around immensely...That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!!