Kathleen VanBuskirk

First post: Jan 1, 2022 Latest post: Jan 17, 2023
We created this site to keep everyone updated on Kathleen.  Thank you for visiting! ❤️ 

Kathleen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on March 3, 2021. She became extremely ill on March 2, and was hospitalized. An x-ray showed a small intestine complete blockage and mass. Further scans and a biopsy confirmed pancreatic adenocarcinoma.  The doctors' initial plans were several cycles of chemotherapy to reduce the tumor and clear major blood vessel involvement, followed by surgery.  Kathleen was transferred to UCSF and on March 9, a gastrojejunostomy "bypass" was completed.  This procedure connects the small intestine (on the other side of the blockage) to the stomach in order to allow normal eating and digestion. Unfortunately, the bypass did not allow Kathleen to eat normally.  The month of March included many attempts to correct this, including placing a feeding tube and installing a stent in the small intestine. None were successful.

Chemotherapy started on March 30, even while the doctors worked to find a way for Kathleen to eat.  Rapid weight loss caused cholecystitis (a large stone blocking the gall bladder duct, accompanied by infection). Kathleen was hospitalized again and a gallbladder drain was placed.

In early June, the gallbladder tubing was being changed and due to human error, it was accidentally removed.  This caused severe infections and Kathleen was again hospitalized over her 57th birthday to have the infection treated and a surgical procedure to place two drains in her liver.

There have been many complications that delayed treatment throughout the year.  The inability to eat caused Kathleen to lose significant weight in a very short period of time and she became dangerously malnourished.  She was finally placed on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), which is nutrition through a central line.  (For those interested in more detail: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/total-parenteral-nutrition/about/pac-20385081). This is a very expensive ongoing process, but is truly a lifesaver and in spite of a recent blood infection, Kathleen has slowly regained weight and nutritional health.

Pancreatic cancer is rarely diagnosed before it has spread throughout the body. Fortunately, while Kathleen's tumor has some involvement with the small intestine, it has not spread further, which provides a tremendous source of hope! 

Battling a severe illness is particularly lonely and trying during COVID times. It is tough to have visitors, and this is very limited when hospitalized.  On behalf of the family, thank you for your prayers, words of encouragement, support and all the kindnesses that so many of you have provided.  It means the world!  

A GoFundMe has also been created to help ease the family's financial burden resulting from the many unexpected complications Kathleen has faced. Visit https://gofund.me/a42b2f16