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I am a 47 year old male. I live in Vancouver, Washington. I was diagnosed on March 2, 1999. The diagnosis was made after I became jaundiced. My wife Lori and I were out looking at a historic mansion on Feb 27 as a possible wedding site when she looked at me and said "Look at me. (pause) I don't want to scare you, but your eyes are yellow". I looked in the mirror and my eyes looked like Sunkist lemons. We went to the urgent care and they thought I might have hepatitis and drew blood for a liver function test. The following Monday she was talking with a surgeon (she is an OR nurse) who suggested that I should have an ultrasound. Without further discussion, he scheduled it. During the ultrasound, the tech kept coming back to the center of my abdomen. She told me, after I insisted she tell me why, that there was a mass there. She called in a radiologist who looked some more and then immediately scheduled me for a CT. Following the CT they set up an appointment with the surgeon weho had scheduled my ultrasound. I figured this made sense - better have an office visit for the insurance company. I did not expect what came next. Following a brief exam, the surgeon broke the news to me that there was, indeed, a mass on the head of my pancreas. I asked if it was a cyst and he said no. I asked if it was cancer and he said yes. I asked if there was a possibility that it was benign and he said no - these are always malignant. He told me that he would give my wife and I a moment ot comprhend what I had just been told. I lost it. What about my kids, what about my beautiful fiance - the woman I had looked for all my life. Just when I thought I had the world by the tail I find out that I - me, Mr. "I'm in control" - had cancer.What followed was rapid fire. I needed to have an ERCP to open the bile duct to get me healthy enough to have a Whipple. This was done on March 4th. The diagnosing surgeon volunteered that he could do the Whipple, but if I wanted a referral, he would give it. He was honest enough to tell me that he could do it, but that he did not do a lot of them. I sought out the guru of Whipples which lead me to this BBS. I contacted Dr. Cammeron's office and he gave me the name of a surgeon at the University of Washington - Carlos Pelligrini. Lori callled and we instantly got an appointment. We went to Seattle and met with Dr. Pellegrini and his staff. He told me that IF I was operable, he would do the procedure. He told me he would do it only if he could extend my life by years, not months, because of the massive invasion to the body. After looking at my CT, he agreed to do the procedure and I had it done on March 15 at the U of W. The procedure took 10 hours. I was in ICU overnight and released to the floor. I spent a total of 12 days in the hospital and was released with my G-tube, J-tube and a couple other drains. Six weeks post-op, I started a 6 week regime of 24 hour constant infusion of 5-FU in conjunction with radiation therapy. At the end of the six weeks, I underwent 2 more weeks for a "boost" radiation treatment and was done. Now it was on to living.When Dr. pellegrini came to se me one day while I was in the hospital, I asked him what my prognosis was. I will never forget what he siad. "If you are asking me 'am I going to die' the answer is yes - we are all going to die. But I can't tell you that this is going to be the cause of your death. You could hit by a semi on the way home and die in car crash. So, don't go home to die - go home to live. Put this behind, do your followup therapies and get on with life." Those words have been an inspiration to me.Okay - now for words of wisdom. What helped me recover as rapidly as I did - quite frankly, the people at the hospital were amazed at my rapid recovery - was my wife's belief that I was going to be fine. She made my hospital room a peaceful environment. Along with the cards and flowers from well wishers, she added her own - the first roses I had ever received. She had brought my own robe and slippers. She bought our CD walkman and the portable speaker (Radio Shack, by the way). She brough some of my favorite instrumental music and bought a CD at the hospital. We left the room lights off and the curtains open to let the sun in. The smeel of the flowers and the soft music playing created an atmosphere of healing. Nurses would always comment on how my room was a different world that that which was outside my door. We talked of the future in terms of what we would do - not what we would do if I died - but what WE would do for the long life we are going to have. She made me walk - a couple of times a day. She let me whine and ***** and complain and then made me walk some more. She never left my side. She did go out on ocassion when I told her I was going to nap. I made her leave to get food other than the hospital food - especially since I couldn't eat. We watched soap operas. And, finally I was out.Since then, she lets me have my "cancer days" when I feel sorry for myself. But, we do the best to put this behind us. Iam now 1 year out and my last CT was clear. Maybe the next one won't be, but for now I am healthy and intend to remain so. I eat what I want, still enjoy drinking wine (like the Godfather said to Michael "I'm drinking more wine than I used to...")and have really gotten into pasta dishes - and that shows in the fact that I am getting a little fatter than I would like. Oh, well, c'est la vie. She knows I like good food and love to cook. She says - so what; enjoy. I have gone back to work and ended up changing jobs. No more high stress management BS for me -it ain't worth it. Now, I am just a salesman again responsible only for myself. I enjoy every sunrise and every sunset. I garden because I figure that Mother Nature will keep me around to tend to the growing things. I sometimes use the excuse that "I might not be here for then next 4th of July or Christmas" as a justification to spoil my kids a little more than maybe I should. I don't live for the future, I live for the moment but I plan to have many, many more moments. I don't like to talk about my health to people outside of those who matter. And then it is only that I'm doing fine.I have looked for the reason this happened. I think I have figured it out. This was a wake up call in life for me to change - get rid of strees, enjoy life and stop to smell the roses. It happened to me so that others around me could witness the event and question their own lives. I know that it has had a profound effect on at least three of my friends. They finally stopped saying "someday I'll..." and made some positive changes in their lives. I also know that my good health has effected the people my wife works with in the OR. After a while, doctors and nurses can become cynical. This has brought a new perspective to them. And lastly, I know that my encounter with the senior rsident at the U of W made her a better doctor. When we met, she was very proficient and already on her way to be a great doctor. What she learned from me is that it is okay to be human with a patient. I joked with her one day and said "Christine, stop being so serious - none of us are going to get out of alive" By the end of my hospital stay, she was a different person. I supose that wearing the clown nose and shoes that a friend sent me may have had something to do with it....If you have read this to this point, thanks. Thanks for caring enough to do so. If you are a the person with this disease, hang in there and don't ever give up what no one can take from you - HOPE. If you are going through this with a loved one, remember that this is not necessarily a death sentence, so don't act like it is. No one can say for sure because, let's face it, the odds aren't the greatest. But, they get better every day. All that has happened is that you are now more fully aware of our mortal nature. Don't wait for the somedays because they might not come. Heal relationships in your lives. Tell people you love them. Forgive people for their mistakes. And never give up - don't give this beast anymore power than it already has. Be tough, be strong, be patient, be kind and NEVER gie up. God bless.

Posted 04/09/2000 05:43 pm by Paul Lester
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