Miriam Heggen Miriam's Fight Club #2

First post: Jun 2, 2016 Latest post: Dec 21, 2023
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2023 update: 

7 years later, after five years of being deemed “cancer free,” it’s back. 

Miriam’s pain started around Christmas when she thought it was her sciatica acting up from working as a florist during the busy season. Then around Valentine’s Day it got worse and she was exhausted and in pain. She got a rash so when she called her oncologist who thought it was Shingles and referred her to see her primary doc.  The pain continued to get worse, so she saw her primary care doc who said this was not Shingles and he gave her some blood tests. Her liver enzymes were elevated which prompted a CT scan. 

The initial CT scan was done at the beginning of April and found marks on her lower vertebrae and some ribs. It also randomly caught cancer on her lower left lung, which prompted a whole abdomen CT scan. The Ca-19-9 blood test was over 5000, which indicates tumors. The PET scan confirmed and also found massive tumors in her right shoulder and hip, which is causing her lots of pain. 

She is seeing a new oncologist out of Edward’s, Dr. Naffouje. The plan was to get a biopsy to examine the cancer cells and find their origin in order to identify the right treatment for the cancer. 

The lung biopsy showed dead tissue so couldn’t get a reading on the cancer cells to find the origin. The sample was sent to the Cleveland clinic and they could not get a reading either. This prompted a bone marrow biopsy. The bone biopsy also showed dead tissue. They did a blood test to scan for cells and also could also not define the origin of the cells. The oncologist said this happens sometimes but she doesn’t want to waste anymore time with more biopsies. 

The diagnosis was given May 11, 2023. 

Although they couldn’t read either biopsy, with all things considered and her history, they are naming it Stage 4 metastatic pancreatic cancer.  It has spread too much so there are no surgeries. It is incurable. 

She will have 10 sessions of radiation. They are saying they can shrink the shoulder and hip tumors and hopefully decrease her pain this way. 

The chemo began May 17th. It’s a combo of 3 chemo drugs, but different than what she had before (Gemzar). Chemo made her really sick before, so she is very sad about this. Even with radiation and chemo, the oncologist said this is incurable. They hope to shrink it with radiation and control the spread with chemo. 

She currently isn’t having symptoms of lung cancer except for shortness of breath sometimes. The massive tumors in her shoulders and hips are causing so much pain, so the bone cancer is the rough one right now. 


The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is only 10%

Those who undergo a successful Whipple procedure may have a five-year survival rate of up to 25%.  

After pancreatic cancer surgery 75% of patients have pancreatic cancer recurrence.

Distant (cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, or bones)—has a 3% 5 year survival rate.

Previous Story:
Miriam began having pain in her upper abdomen after her father passed away in December 2015. In January, she went to her Primary physician regarding the abdomen pain and the doctor believed it was an ulcer based on the emotional period of time, but Miriam knew it wasn't an ulcer and asked for more testing. A blood test revealed elevated liver enzymes which resulted in an order for a CT scan. The doctor received the results of the scan and recommended an MRI for additional testing. Miriam asked that the doctor read to her the findings of the CT scan. It read that there was a mass in her pancreas that was "suspicious for malignancy". Miriam's friend who was previously a nurse advised Miriam to see a pancreatic specialist.  Now in the first week of February, the specialist (Dr. Millikin) got her in for an appointment right away.  When meeting with Dr. Millikin, he reviewed the CT scan and advised that in his expert opinion, the mass was cancer and he scheduled her for a biopsy and a stent to be placed in her bile duct (to relieve pain).  The biopsy confirmed cancer.  The stent helped some pain.  A treatment plan was put in place through Rush University hospital. 25 treatments of radiation and 5 treatments of chemotherapy with the goal to shrink the tumor and perform the Whipple surgery to remove it.  

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