Until the day I was diagnosed, I’d always considered myself pretty healthy. I played tennis, practiced yoga and ate a mostly vegetarian diet. I took really good care of myself. But in late June 2016, I discovered two little lumps on my left clavicle, so I went to see my general practitioner.
I figured the lumps were swollen lymph nodes, due to a really bad sinus infection. It never occurred to me that they could be pancreatic cancer. I felt a little tired, but it was a “normal” tired. And I had no other symptoms.
My pancreatic cancer diagnosis
First, my doctor ordered an ultrasound. Then he said I needed a biopsy. The results stunned both of us: stage IV adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. I had pancreatic cancer.
I come from a large family, and the Irish-Catholic side has seen a lot of cancer diagnoses. Everyone told me to get to MD Anderson as soon as possible, so I made an appointment there.
At MD Anderson, I met with Robert Wolff, M.D. He confirmed my pancreatic cancer diagnosis and prescribed a six-month chemotherapy regimen. Starting in July 2016, I received a cocktail of three intravenous drugs every 15 days, for a dozen doses in all. And I’ve shown no evidence of disease since January 2017.
My experience at MD Anderson: an unending series of miracles
Statistics show only about 1% of stage IV pancreatic cancer patients are still alive five years after diagnosis. So I consider my entire experience at MD Anderson to be an unending series of miracles.
The first was being assigned to Dr. Wolff, one of the co-leaders of MD Anderson’sPancreatic Cancer Moon Shot™. The second was how responsive my body was to the chemotherapy cocktail he and his team chose. (I learned later that there were other combinations they could have tried, but this one seemed perfect for me.)
The third miracle was that by September 2016, my CA-19 marker (an antigen in the blood that’s often elevated in patients with pancreatic cancer) was back to normal, and other than being a little bloated one time from the steroids, I didn’t really have any serious side effects. The fourth was hearing the words, “no evidence of disease,” in January 2017. The fifth was that genetic testing showed my type of cancer is not hereditary, so my daughter won’t have to worry about this. And those are just the tip of the iceberg.
Enjoying “extra” time and giving back through the Moon Shots Program™
I’ve always lived a very faith-centered life, so I considered it my job to be aware of these little miracles. I knew if I just did my part, God would do the rest through MD Anderson. Today, there are no words to express the tremendous gratitude I feel. Dr. Wolff and his team saved my life. And somehow, “thank you” just isn’t enough.
I’m on “extra” time now, so however I can be of service to others, I want to be. That’s why I’m letting Dr. Wolff study my blood through the Moon Shots Program™. He wants to find out why I responded so well to treatment. I told him he could have whatever he needed from me, because knowing I might be helping other cancer patients live longer makes all the fear I experienced worth it.
Whatever God gives us, He also gives us the strength to endure. And the only side effect I have left from my cancer treatment is joy.