On March 4, I celebrated my 64th birthday and felt absolutely great. I've always considered myself to be healthy. I eat right, don't smoke, and exercise daily. I retired 18 months ago after 36 years in aerospace and have been enjoying my newfound free time. Cancer could never get me, right? The truth is, cancer can come out of nowhere and get anybody.
In late March, I starting having some gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea and jaundice. I went to a gastro doc who ordered a blood test that showed high liver enzymes. After more tests and scans, I had an endoscopic procedure that discovered a tumor blocking my bile duct and encroaching into the pancreas. Biopsies confirmed an adenoid carcinoma in that region--the scariest news of my life. Pancreatic cancer is one of the worst kinds of cancer; it's usually not found until it's spread. I'm really lucky, because the tumor was located in the one spot that caused symptoms, and it looks like it was caught early.
The only cure for this type of cancer is a complex, 6-hour surgery known as the Whipple procedure, that removes the tumor and surrounding tissue and all or parts of any affected organs, then reconnects all the plumbing in a new way. My surgery is May 4 at Cedars Sinai. I'll be in the hospital for at least 6 days after. Post-op will be 6 months of chemo and probably radiation, to wipe out any microscopic cancer cells and make sure this never comes back.
I know this all sounds bad, but I've always been, and continue to be, an eternal optimist. I take each day positively, never forgetting to consciously count my blessings for all I have and for all the love I get and give every day. All may be a bit more challenging as things go forward, but I'll just get used to a "new normal." I promise to keep smiling, loving, and laughing. That, in the long run, is what makes me happy and healthy. I'm blessed to have so many friends and loved ones who care and include me in their prayers regularly, and for that I am truly grateful.