In mid December, 2016, after several weeks of stomach aches, and the pain becoming progressively worse, I saw my primary doctor on a Friday. At this point, my stomach was very distended and the pain was making me very uncomfortable. My doctor thought I had a bacterial infection and prescribed probiotics. That weekend, the pain intensified and by Tuesday of the following week I had an appointment with an internal doctor here in Mint Hill.
The first of January, my internist began a battery of tests with a thorough physical, blood tests, etc., with every test showing all was normal. My doctor prescribed an antibiotic, but the pain persisted. After two CT scans, meds to address stomach lining, etc., I had an MRI which showed I had a mass located above my pancreas that was sitting against the celiac artery. I had an endoscopy where the tumor was biopsied but due to the tumor's location, little tissue was extracted.
The gastroenterologist at first said the tissue was not malignant, but the following day, I received a phone call that it was indeed malignant. At that precise moment, my life changed course. Having lost my maternal grandmother to cancer in 1964, when she was 61 and I was 13, and remembering her suffering back then, I was struck with fear and felt paralyzed as the one disease that I feared most and had impacted my life significantly had become my reality. My dad died of prostate cancer in 1986 when he was 63 and my older brother died from prostate cancer 2002 in at age 54. The memories of their suffering enveloped me. The thoughts of radiation and chemo and the powerful effects on their bodies with nausea and loss of appetite flooded my mind with dread. I didn't want to have to go through this. I didn't want to suffer trying to get well. But my cancer was inoperable, so this was the pathway I would have to take.
Last week, I had a PET scan and it showed no cancer elsewhere. I also had a laparoscopy last week to look for abnormal tissue in other organs, and that procedure showed no suspicious areas. So, here I sit with a diagnosis of cancer of unknown primary, meaning, for example, if one has colon cancer, and the cancer metastasizes elsewhere, one would have cancer of the colon. I could, at this point, I was told, have cancer of the stomach, the ovaries, the peritoneal wall, or the pancreas. But......all tests are coming back showing everything is "normal", yet I have lost weight and I have been in pain since the fall. But those two symptoms are my only ones. I was told a person of unknown primary was already too advanced in their cancer to expect much more than a few months to live. My oncologist was shocked when he walked into the room and saw me looking so physically fit. Am I an anomaly? Am I sick? Am I going to die? Am I not sick, so I won't die? My head was spinning. But because my tumor sat near the pancreas, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Why treat me for pancreatic cancer when it could be another type of cancer. Every cancer has a different kind of chemo. I was not liking the idea of treating my cancer without facts. I want a second opinion!
Wednesday, March 1, I traveled to Raleigh to seek a second opinion from Dr. Mark Graham, a well known oncologist. As soon as he started speaking about my case, I knew I was in the hands of a genius! And along with the intellect was a man who was able to communicate in layman termsl and he wrote down on paper for me exactly what basic pathology entailed, the types of testing of cancer cells that are performed, , and he ran through traditional chemotherapy and radiation, along with Immune therapy, suggesting I may be a candidate for Immune Therapy. He kept emphasizing that in order to confidently state that I had cancer he wanted to see the evidence! With blood tests and PET scans indicating all was normal, he kept saying he wanted to see the evidence, of which my body was not providing except for the fact I had a mass sitting inside of my body. I really liked this doctor and I started feeling a sense of hope.
Dr. Graham is transferring my records to an oncologist surgeon at UNC-Chapel Hill, whom he thinks can "give us the evidence". I will have to have more surgery but I am willing to take the chance that the source of my cancer will be discovered. At this time, I do not know when I can get a consultation with the surgeon. This is something I will keep you advised on.
Yesterday, March 2, I saw my medical oncologist, Dr. Kunal Kadakia, at Levine Cancer Center. He and I reviewed Dr. Graham's notes and he concurred on what I presented him with. He did tell me I could go through the additional surgery and there was a possibility the origin of my cancer may still not be found. But I told him I was willing to take the chance. I like Dr. Kadakia very much as he is open minded about other opinions and treatments and I see that he respects my decisions and wishes, while advising me on facts and options.
Please pray that if it is God's will that I see the surgeon in Chapel Hill, that I can get an appointment soon and get tests/surgery performed in a timely manner so I can begin my journey of healing. I pray for God to be glorified in my journey and I pray for his will in my life. Thank you for your love and prayers. As soon as I have anything to share, I will post in this journal. God bless you all.