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I have pancreatic cancer. In a matter of 10 days, I went from some vague abdominal pain to undergoing several different surgeries, CT scans, MRI, ultrasounds, numerous blood tests and starting chemotherapy. Throughout all of this, my teams of medical professionals have led Kathy and I through the dizzying maze of tests, work ups, procedures and medications.
Two days before Thanksgiving,I experience a very mild tenderness in my upper abdomen. We spent the holiday in Edina, MN with Kathy’s family and the pain actually improved. I was intending in putting things off until my annual physical later in Dec with my primary physician, Dr. Gary Leong. I happened by chance to see one of the surgeons in the hospital the Monday after Thanksgiving. I asked her about my symptoms and Dr. Cindy Geocaris urged me to investigate this sooner, than later. Subsequent blood tests showed one of my pancreatic enzymes to be markedly elevated, which led to an ultrasound and CT scan of my abdomen. The CT scan showed a mass in the head of the pancreas. After undergoing three biopsies, removal of my gall bladder and a staging laparoscopy, I was formally diagnosed with Stage 2 adenocarcinoma of the pancreas, the most common type of pancreatic cancer. During this whirlwind of tests and procedures, I have seen no less than 10 different physicians, and at least twice as many other medical professionals. Kathy and I have traveled to Madison, WI, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and the Block Center in Chicago to consult with one of the top pancreatic surgeons and oncology teams in the country.
Needless to say, this diagnosis has been devastating to our family and friends, but there are reasons for optimism. I am younger than the typical patient, my cancer is at an earlier stage than typical and I am in relatively good physical condition. At this point, my cancer is borderline resectable without metastasis and should be amenable to surgery after my chemotherapy and radiation therapy is complete in February. Throughout all this, there has been an outpouring of support and prayers from our family, colleagues, friends, neighbors and our church family .Kathy and I made the decision for me to retire from my ENT practice on December 3. Not exactly the exit I had been planning, but the right decision nonetheless. My partners and staff have been extremely supportive during this transition.
I started my chemotherapy Dec10, and additionally received radiation therapy locally here at the Bellin Cancer Center. Please read my Journal entries for all of the latest updates.