Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. Beth and Sean (Steve's sister and brother-in-law) will be maintaining this site. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.
On August 14, 2017, Steve was diagnosed with stage 4 adenoTK pancreatic cancer. There is a 5 centimeter mass growing near the head of the pancreas, and 4 additional 2 centimeter spots where the cancer has spread to the liver. MRI images also show swollen lymph nodes, indicating that the cancerous cells may have spread throughout his body (giving him the stage 4 designation).
Steve began experiencing symptoms in late winter/early spring of this year. He started having pain in his upper back, minor discomfort at first, and that back pain has gradually become worse over time. He had a skiing accident last season, where he sideswiped a tree and initially thought the pain was related to that accident. He monitored that injury and sought relief from the pain with chiropractic and massage treatments. All of his body-work practitioners could find no structural or muscular issues, yet the pain remained. The back pain eventually became so severe that it affected his sleep - specifically, he couldn't do it anymore. Lying in a prone position and getting comfortable became nearly impossible.
About 3-4 months ago, Steve started having trouble eating as well. He would get very full, very fast (even after only 4-5 bites of food) and then would have acid-reflux like symptoms. Normally, Steve has a high metabolism and is the one cleaning up the leftovers on everyone's plates at the end of a meal, so this was very unlike him to eat only a few bites at a time. He modified his diet by eating smaller meals here and there, and cut out spicy or rich foods, in an attempt to quell his sour stomach. Eventually, eating most foods became difficult; he had too much discomfort and struggled to keep anything down. As a result of the insomnia and the inability to eat, he has lost 25 pounds over the last 4 months.
During this time, Steve was checking in with his primary doctor and made a couple of trips to urgent care centers. He went to the ER just prior to a 2-week camping trip in Iceland in July (mostly to appease our mother, but also hoping to get some relief from these symptoms). Every time, nothing. The reality is that none of these medical professionals were looking for pancreatic cancer, especially in someone so young and in all other ways, healthy. The one other odd puzzle piece to this is that over the winter, Steve had a deep vein thrombosis in his left leg. He sought treatment for that, but again, this didn't lead to any further investigation when taken in isolation. As it turns out, blood clots like these are also a symptom of pancreatic cancer.
After returning from Iceland, Steve went back to his primary doctor and demanded further investigation, as the pain had become relentless and he knew something was wrong. A CT scan led to an MRI, which led to a biopsy, which led to the diagnosis of Stage 4 adenoTK pancreatic cancer. Doctor Kenny, the oncologist who made the diagnosis, immediately referred him to colleagues at the University of Colorado and Steve is now being treated by Dr. Lindsey Davis. He will pursue the traditional course of treatment, which is chemotherapy to attempt to stop the growth of the cancer.
Steve's digestive system, specifically the liver, needs to be functioning properly in order for him to start chemotherapy. On August 18th, he had a stent inserted into his common bile duct to allow the proper flow of enzymes into the liver. While Steve initially responded well to this procedure, an infection developed at the surgery site and he was admitted to the hospital for a four night stay in early September. The docs were able to replace the stent with a larger and stronger stent which will further improve liver function and they got the infection under control. Steve's been recuperating at home since then and is scheduled to start chemotherapy on October 6th. His spirits are high, and he is gearing up for battle. We are all taking our cues from him.
Our mom, Nurse Barb, has been here since early August and is Steve's primary caregiver (that 50+ year career as an RN sure is coming in handy). We are so grateful for everything she does on a daily basis to make sure Steve is as comfortable and healthy as possible. She's navigating the streets and highways of Denver like a pro and still can't believe that her exit to the hospital is named "Peoria St" (shout out to central Illinois!)
You can learn more about pancreatic cancer from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network website https://www.pancan.org.
We've found it very helpful as we learn and adapt to our new reality. We will post more resources as we find them and updates will be forthcoming. Thanks for being on Steve's SAG Wagon* and for supporting us on this leg of the journey.
*SAG Wagon - In bike racing, the SAG wagon is a support vehicle that picks up riders unable to complete a road race because of injury, mechanical problem or other mishap. SAG also stands for "support and gear" or "support and grub".