In September 2014, I was diagnosed with Stage IIB Pancreatic Cancer (Borderline Resectable) and began treatment at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center http://www.penncancer.org/
). I have a 3 centimeter malignant tumor on the head of the pancreas, with some vein involvement. My treatment plan includes an initial 2-3 month regimen of chemotherapy (Gemcitabine and Abraxane), following a trial of a daily high dose of Vitamin D. Near the conclusion of the chemotherapy, I will be evaluated for surgery. If the vein involvement responds well to the treatment and there is no spread of cancer, I can proceed to surgery for the removal of my pancreas and surrounding organs (gall bladder and spleen). If the cancer does not respond to chemotherapy, I will then have a 5-week regimen of daily radiation, using Penn's new proton radiation therapy. After that treatment, I will again be evaluated for surgery (which is the only cure for pancreatic cancer).
My cancer was most likely caused by undiagnosed, genetic chronic pancreatitis and the inability of my immune system to prevent the development of the tumor. My only symptom was unintended weight loss and a change in bowel habits during July-August. During the last 10 years, I had periodic short term episodes of what my doctor and I thought was gastroenteritis (1-2 days of severe abdominal pain and fatigue). In all probability these were acute pancreatitis attacks. While I closely monitored my blood tests for glucose and I had regular negative colonoscopies during this period, I did not have a CT Scan which would have revealed the problems with my pancreas. So I encourage you to be vigilant about your health, including having a good nutrition and exercise plan. And you need to be an educated advocate with your doctors about your symptoms and the need for definitive test results.
The good news is that I have no pain, lots of energy and a strong appetite. I have responded well to the first two treatments of chemotherapy, with only very minor side effects (one day of low grade fever and fatigue). I continue to teach online for Penn State. And I have more time at home to spend with Chris and to attend weekly events with our kids and our four wonderful grandchildren.
I am now even more appreciative of the great blessings of my life and what matters most. I feel closer and more connected to my family. My faith in God and my understanding of His plan for me has never been stronger. I feel the presence of God in those who extend their prayers and well wishes. I feel that I am not fighting cancer, I am learning to live with cancer. I want others (especially doctors and cancer researchers) to learn as much as they can from my case and experience. And I want to continue to serve God and be a positive influence on others. I will use this site to share thoughts, feelings and updates about my life with cancer, including my treatments and any enduring understandings that I might have about this experience.
Thank you for your love, your caring concern about me and for reading these updates!