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Oct 26, 2018 Latest post:
Dec 4, 2018
On February 28th, 2016, Ana woke up the middle of the night with sharp pains in her left side, radiating around to her back. After calling the nurse line in the morning, Tim drove her to the Emergency Room, as they thought Ana might be having a heart attack. After that was dismissed as the presenting issue, an ultrasound and CT scan showed stones in her gallbladder and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), a typical presentation of gallbladder disease.
The general practitioner Ana saw as follow-up the next day offered her the options of an MRI (to completely rule out cancer) which Ana declined because it seemed an extremely remote possibility, and a follow-up with a gastrointestinal doctor or a surgeon for a gallbladder removal. Since Ana tend to be non-interventionist, Ana chose the GI doc option, which wound up being scheduled for a few months out due to the non-urgent nature of her symptoms. Ana also went back to see a Chinese medicine provider I'd seen previously to work on liver and gallbladder health in the meanwhile.
On May 2nd, at the appointment with the GI doc, she carefully reviewed the CT scan from the ER visit and told her she was concerned about not being able to see some ducts in her pancreas clearly. We scheduled an ectopic ultrasound for May 24th in order to get a better view from the inside of her. If there was anything to be concerned about, she would do a needle biopsy during the ultrasound.
On May 24th, during the ultrasound, a 2.7 cm mass on the head of her pancreas was discovered, and upon biopsy determined to be adenocarcinoma. It does not appear to have spread beyond the pancreas as best we know today. It appears to be completely random: Ana have no risk factors, Ana am young, and am not the typical pancreas cancer patient.
The preferred treatment appears to be surgery and then chemo in most situations. The initial consultation with an oncologist and follow-up with a surgeon indicated that her tumor is not currently initially respectable (meaning: non-operable) because it is wrapped around a major blood vessel.
Since surgery is not an initial option, there will be chemo first to shrink the tumor in order to allow surgery to occur, with chemo to follow afterword’s. The good news is that the cancer hasn't spread beyond her pancreas, but we still need to move quickly and steadily.
While treating pancreas cancer isn't any walk in the park, her age and general good health play in her favor for a better outcome. There have been significant advances in the care and treatment of pancreas cancer in the past 3-5 years, and there are a number of clinical trials taking place in Minnesota.
Tim, William and Emilia and Ana will need your love, support, care, and healthy doses of normalcy and humor. her greatest stress and concern are how this situation touches her family, particularly how this will impact her children and their lives. Tim and Ana aim to keep things as normal and regular for William and Emilia as possible, in an entirely chaotic and unpredictable situation.
While she’d clearly never have chosen this path, caring for her mom during her 8-year battle with metastatic lung cancer, her coaching training and experience, years of mindfulness practice, and her love and resiliency as a family may set us up as well as anyone could be.
We aim to have great hope and expectancy for a good outcome, while at the same time holding reasonable expectations for treatment of a serious cancer. We are focusing mainly on her gratitude for the preciousness of the time we have together today, while also planning on treating this cancer as aggressively as possible, given her age.
Thanks in advance for your care and concern, and love of her family. Your prayers, good thoughts and tangible pragmatic action of all stripes, varieties and flavors will be gratefully accepted and appreciated.