Facing the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at age 61 was devastating at best. Surrounded by family who heard those words along with me, seeing the disbelief and strain on the faces of my husband and children, made me realize I was not alone in this and my disease would impact them as much or more as myself. Soul searching apparent in their eyes akin to my own, each one asking, “How can this be happening?”
My diagnosis came in mid-September, a little over a month before my 62nd birthday. I had semi-retired from nursing and embarked on a writing career. My first novel “Shades of Sin” was followed by a second, “Shattered Souls”. I had completed a third and just written a children’s book.
Back and forth to my general practitioner the previous year with vague complaints of worsening intestinal problems, bloating, gas, irritability, stomach pain; he seemed unconcerned. A gluten free diet didn’t help. In May, I insisted on an abdominal ultrasound.
“Something is definitely wrong”, I said.
I had an ultrasound in mid-May and finally after not hearing anything, called for results the first week of June.
“Your study was normal”, my physician’s nurse told me.
“How can that be?”, I questioned. “I don’t understand how it could be normal when I feel this way.”
“Well”, the nurse replied, “there are a couple spots in your liver, but he said everyone your age has cysts in their livers.”
I questioned myself. Was I a hypochondriac? In August, I visited my daughter.
“When did you start losing so much weight?” She asked.
“I don’t know. Don’t I always drop some weight in the summer?”
“Mom!” She stated firmly. “You need to see someone who will find out what is wrong.”
I received a letter shortly after. My physician of 34 years was retiring. I had to find someone new. Armed with my ultrasound films, reports and complaints, I saw a new doctor.
“This ultrasound is not normal”, he stated. “It says right here that a C.T. scan is indicated.”
He phoned an hour after the scan with the news that I had a tumor on my pancreas.
Things moved swiftly after that but it is never fast enough when the desire to live burns like a fire inside you. I have so much to live for. I thought of my eighth grandchild, just six months old, and how the younger ones would have no memory of me.
I immediately looked into clinical trials. Buying more quality time was my main concern. I’d been told that my disease was very advanced and the most aggressive form. The pancreatic tumor encircled the mesenteric artery. Metastases were evident in the liver and spleen, back of the stomach and gallbladder. It was in the lymph nodes, inoperable and terminal.
I refused to allow them to give me a time line. “It’s my time”, I said.
I was offered a clinical trial at a major medical center; a combination of three chemotherapies that would maybe buy some additional time. I would love to say that my reasons were altruistic in nature; that I wanted to pave the way for others, but my reasons were purely selfish. I grabbed at the opportunity to fight this disease and have come to realize how precious time really is.
I have completed five treatments to date and I feel I made the right decision to fight. Time is a commodity I am unwilling to give up. And time with my family is what keeps me strong. Learn more about clinical trials