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Richard, my husband of 23 years, was diagnosed April 12, 2000 with pancreatic cancer. He died April 27, 2000. He was 67 years old. He'd started experiencing abdominal pain sometime at the end of February. He called the doctor the first week of March. His doctor gave him ulcer medicine. After trying it for a week, he went back to the doctor, on Friday, March 10. I told him to remind the doctor that over a year ago they'd found an abdominal aneurysm on an ultrasound, and they said it needed to be checked every year. The doctor said that wouldn't be causing his problem, and scheduled a barium enema for the following Monday. Then, after thinking about it a little, he sent my husband over for an ultrasound exam, to check the aneurysm. That's when they saw a mass in his pancreas. They did a CAT scan that very day (and canceled the barium enema). We waited until Monday to see a cancer surgeon. My husband was feeling better that day, so this new doctor said we'd treat this like pancreatitis. They'd taken blood to check for pancreatitis, but the result was negative. The doctor said it could be because the attack was about over when the test was done. That night, the pain was back. The doctor prescribed Percocet. It didn't touch the pain. Then he tried Dilaudid. Still nothing. The doctor told us it could be cancer, and that would not be good, but he still played around with pain medicine. When my husband's abdomen filled up with fluid, they did another CAT scan (April 5), and removed 2700 cc's of fluid the next day. We were told they'd look for cancer cells in the fluid, and we should know the results in a couple of days. By Monday, the 10th, the pain was unbearable, and all we had was dilaudid, which was doing nothing. When my stoic husband asked me how much torture a person can take, it scared me so much. Finally, the doctor saw us Wednesday, the 12th. He told us there were cancer cells in the fluid. My husband was stunned. He'd refused to think it could possibly be cancer. He was in so much pain. I am angry at this second doctor for wasting so much time. I don't think he could've saved my husband, or even extended his life, but surely we could have had something better for the pain. Anyway, right away, we were sent to an oncologist (it turns out this surgeon was not a cancer surgeon, even though his advertisement says cancer surgeon. He is a general surgeon, who does cancer surgeries). I immediately liked our oncologist. He is a terrific man. He talked to us for a long time. He let us know surgery was not an option, because of the cancer spreading, and the fluid buildup, and radiation was not an option, because of it spreading, and chemo likely would make my husband's symptoms worse, and would not shrink the tumor. However, if we wanted to try chemo, he would do it for us. Also, he checked into a clinical trial they are doing 100 miles from us, and said he'd set up an appointment up. He was wonderful. I could tell from the way he was talking to us we did not have much time, but my husband was thinking he'd have a year. The doctor did mention hospice, but my husband was not ready to go that way. The next night, April 11th, my husband was in so much pain, but did not want to go to the hospital (he'd worked all his adult life in hospitals, taking x-rays, doing CAT scans, ultrasounds, nuclear medicine, and thought hospitals were a good place to stay away from.) I called and talked to the oncologist, who was as good as his word. I could call any time, and he'd talk to me. He got my husband to agree to just go in the hospital to get the pain in control. I was able to talk to the doctor privately on Sunday, the 16th, and asked him how much time he thought my husband had left. "Weeks," was his answer. I was absolutely stunned. I thought he'd say 3-6 months. I could not tell my husband. He was released Monday, the 17th. Things were changing from one minute to the next with my husband's condition. I had to keep calling the oncology department for help with medication. On Tuesday, the 18th, they drained 4900 cc's of fluid from my husband. 20 lbs., they told me. By Thursday, I'd called the oncology office and the doctor so much, the doctor told me I really needed to get hospice involved. My husband was devastated when I told him I'd agreed to hospice, but I told him we could change our mind at any time, but we needed to try them. They were truly a blessing. Things went very fast, as I said, sometimes changing from one minute to the next. In the end, along with duragesic patches, I was giving him suppositories for pain. I never saw myself doing anything like this, but I found out when it is someone you love, you don't think twice; I was glad to do it. At 3:27 a.m., April 27th, my husband took his last breath. Just after he did, brown fluid came out of his mouth (it looked like what they'd drained from him). There were things that I look back on in the last year, and wonder if they had anything to do with this horrible disease. Last summer, my husband told me he thought he was getting Alzheimer's. It was very unusual for him to forget things, and he was, but it was more than that. He would get lost in the middle of a sentence, or he'd be disoriented. I attributed that to a "mini stroke" he'd had in Nov. 1998. He was unusually cranky, irritable, depressed. I talked him into making plans to go to Florida in May (our anniversary was May 2), and we were going to spend the month. I thought a change of scenery would be good for him. There were other things that I now attribute to the cancer. I miss him so much.

Posted 05/21/2000 10:15 pm by Peggy
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