This is very hard for me to write and I’m sorry that you are hearing from me in this way instead of something more personal. It has been a whirlwind week and it is only by the Grace of God and the love of my close friends and family, some of whom are also my doctors, that I have had so much information and help in such a short period of time.
As you may or may not know, I have had a lot of back pain since the fall of 2018. I found lots of things to contribute it to and tried hard to solve it. I went to a chiropractor, I changed my sleeping position, I tried stretching, over the counter anti inflammatories, you name it.
Finally in January, I went to a wonderful orthopedic surgeon who had recently repaired my son’s broken wrist from a basketball injury. Dr. Jonathan Printz had surgically repaired Brandon’s wrist in record time and I thought he might be able to also help me. Dr. Printz ordered a MRI in the middle of January and no structural cause was found for my back pain (pinched nerve, herniated disk, etc.) It was life saving however that he was so conscientious to mention that I had a cyst on my liver that should be followed up and that he was assigning it to my primary care doctor.
Well I did not follow up.
I did not think it was a big deal and honestly my back pain and lack of sleep was my bigger concern.
However, luckily, my primary care physician, Dr. Mark Dorow, did follow up and encouraged me to come in. I had blood work which was 100% in all healthy ranges, including my liver enzymes. Dr. Dorow ordered an ultrasound of my liver and promised me we would look for the source of my back pain after we checked out the cyst.
I had the ultrasound last Monday, 2/18 at 7:30 am and went home. At 8:30 am my good friend and radiologist, Dr. Jen Bergin, was calling me on my cell phone and explaining that she was very concerned and that she had set all the balls in motion for a CT scan that morning. All orders and approvals were rushed through and by 11:15 I had had a CT scan with and without contrast.
Jen sat Jeff and I in a room and tearfully gave us the life altering news.
I most likely had pancreatic cancer that has spread to my liver.
She set up a surgery consult for me and an oncology appointment. The wonderful surgeon who I hadn’t even met yet ordered and set up a biopsy for Wednesday. Dr. Tim Trotier dropped his schedule and was my anesthesiologist for the biopsy. My surgeon, Dr. Davies, got the head pathologist to rush my tissue sample so it took one day instead of 3-7.
On Thursday, 2/21, my parents rushed back from their Mexico vacation and my in-laws rushed back from their winter condo in FL and we all met with my very patient oncologist, Dr. Chris Hake, who confirmed my diagnosis.
I have stage 4 malignant adenocarcinoma in the tail of the proximal body of the pancreas and it has metastasized to my liver in multiple lesions throughout all the lobes.
We were devastated. We told the boys Thursday night and they are handling it very well. My family, friends, and doctors and nurses have rallied around us and we feel very protected and loved.
My oncologist, Dr. Hake, had already looked for trials for me and will continue to do so, but for now, I will be having standard treatment for this kind of cancer at UW Cancer Center at the Prohealthcare site in Pewaukee. I will have a very aggressive chemo regiment on Fridays every two weeks with a scan every 8 weeks to check for progress. This will most likely continue for 6 months. I am not currently a surgical candidate due to the size and location of the tumors.
Now for the excellent news.
I actually feel completely fine except for the back pain and lack of sleep.
My liver is functioning at 100%.
I had a PET scan and there were no new surprises which is excellent news. In the PET scan my lungs, lymph nodes, and bones are all clear. The cancer is centralized in my pancreas and liver.
I am going to fight this cancer and I am going to survive. I feel strong and I have so much support. I am really healthy so I know I will handle this strong chemo cocktail.
It’s only been 2 days since I became a cancer patient but I already feel like a survivor because of all the love that is building me up.
Please feel free to share my story with anyone- I am an open book, and maybe my story will help someone else get checked early.