I have pancreatic cancer. In a matter of 10 days, I went from some vague abdominal pain to undergoing several different surgeries, CT scans, MRI, ultrasounds, numerous blood tests and starting chemotherapy. Throughout all of this, my teams of medical professionals have led Kathy and I through the dizzying maze of tests, work ups, procedures and medications.
Two days before Thanksgiving,I experience a very mild tenderness in my upper abdomen. We spent the holiday in Edina, MN with Kathy’s family and the pain actually improved. I was intending in putting things off until my annual physical later in Dec with my primary physician, Dr. Gary Leong. I happened by chance to see one of the surgeons in the hospital the Monday after Thanksgiving. I asked her about my symptoms and Dr. Cindy Geocaris urged me to investigate this sooner, than later. Subsequent blood tests showed one of my pancreatic enzymes to be markedly elevated, which led to an ultrasound and CT scan of my abdomen. The CT scan showed a mass in the head of the pancreas. After undergoing three biopsies, removal of my gall bladder and a staging laparoscopy, I was formally diagnosed with Stage 2 adenocarcinoma of the pancreas, the most common type of pancreatic cancer. During this whirlwind of tests and procedures, I have seen no less than 10 different physicians, and at least twice as many other medical professionals. Kathy and I have traveled to Madison, WI, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and the Block Center in Chicago to consult with one of the top pancreatic surgeons and oncology teams in the country.
Needless to say, this diagnosis has been devastating to our family and friends, but there are reasons for optimism. I am younger than the typical patient, my cancer is at an earlier stage than typical and I am in relatively good physical condition. At this point, my cancer is borderline resectable without metastasis and should be amenable to surgery after my chemotherapy and radiation therapy is complete in February. Throughout all this, there has been an outpouring of support and prayers from our family, colleagues, friends, neighbors and our church family .Kathy and I made the decision for me to retire from my ENT practice on December 3. Not exactly the exit I had been planning, but the right decision nonetheless. My partners and staff have been extremely supportive during this transition.
I started my chemotherapy Dec10, and additionally received radiation therapy locally here at the Bellin Cancer Center. Please read my Journal entries for all of the latest updates.
As you may know, Rhiannon and I (Robin) are away from home in St. Paul, Minnesota attending the University of St. Thomas. While these past weeks have been very difficult, it’s nice having a sister around who can share your feelings. While in hospice, my Dad brought up one thing repetitively to Rhiannon and I, that being he wanted us to find a church to attend regularly while we are in MN. It is so easy to nod your head and say "yes dad, we know" but a few Sundays passed and we were still at square one. So last weekend while we were home, we did some church shopping online and many Google searches later we decided to take action and attended a church yesterday called Substance. It was a very powerful service for us, filling our eyes and hearts. It gave me, and hopefully my sister, the positive energy we have been so desperately in need of. On our way home from the service we both agreed that Dad was probably looking down on us, pumping his fists. But it was not till later that night, that we both were truly able to see his presence and joy.
As I was getting ready to go to bed something caught my eye that left me in awe. In the pitch-black room, there were two beams of light on the wall structured into a perfect cross. The light seemed to be coming out of no where as there were no adjacent windows letting light in. I ran to Rhiannon's room to awaken and show her. We stared at it in disbelief and unsuccessfully failed at taking a picture with our iPhones because it was too dark. Rhiannon then ran to her room to grab her fancy camera and managed to capture it. Although we were able to capture the moment, the picture does not do justice as to what it looked and felt like in real life. Words can't describe how beautiful and meaningful it was to us. No words were spoken but we both knew what it was. It was Dad giving us the hope we need and reminding us that he is always watching over us. He has suffered and he is RISEN, reassuring us that everything will be alright