On December 18, 2019 I checked into Abbott Hospital for gastric sleeve surgery. I had spent months preparing for the surgery and for living the next 30 + years active and healthy.
In the recovery room after surgery it became clear something had not gone as planned. Eventually I was told that the surgical team had found a tumor on the tail end of my pancreas. My scheduled procedure was not completed. Due to the complexity of the tumor they had not done a biopsy.
Soon I had a CAT scan with contrast. My surgeon and an oncologist arrived in my room to discuss the results with me and Paul. The tumor seemed likely to be cancer and lesions were seen in my liver. The next day I had a biopsy of one of the liver lesions.
On Christmas Eve morning Paul, Phil, Grace and I met with my oncologist, Dr. Seng, to hear the results. The diagnosis is a well differentiated pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor Grade 3. The size of the mass is about 5.3 cm. I does appear to surround the splenic artery. The scan showed multiple spots in both lobes of the liver which appear to be spread of the cancer (meaning it is stage 4 - the cancer has spread to the spleen and liver).
It's a horrible diagnosis but we are optimistic about the prognosis. Dr. Seng said the cancer is not curable but something we hope to be able to treat and manage for years. This was great news! If you read about "stage 4 pancreatic cancer" you see some pretty grim statistics. Those sites are discussing a different type of pancreatic cancer - adenocarcinoma. Pancreatic cancer is considered rare and the type that I have accounts for about 5% of pancreatic cancer. The treatment, disease progression, and prognosis is different for the two types of cancer.
In just the last year, a promising new treatment has become available for the type of cancer I have. Today I had a PET scan which will show a couple of important things. First, it will show if the cancer is confined to my gut as we currently believe. Second it will show how likely my cancer is to respond to this new treatment -PRRT (http://www.prrt-treatment.com/prrt-and-net/prrt/
On January 8 my case will be presented at a conference for MN Oncology where a multidisciplinary team will arrive at a recommended treatment plan. Paul and I will hear the recommendation on the afternoon of the 8th. On January 14 I have a consult and second opinion at Mayo. There is a surgeon at Mayo who is doing surgery on “inoperable” tumors like mine so I am excited to get an appointment there.
Given all of this, Paul is retiring at the end of January. No more tax season!! A reason to celebrate. I will be taking an 8-12 week medical leave of absence from the McKnight Foundation - beginning next week
I plan to update the CaringBridge Site when there are new developments.
Grace will be helping me maintain the site and if we find we need specific help - rides, meals, running errands - we will let you know.
Thanks you all for your prayers, healing thoughts, acts of kindness and support. All my love, B