Kathy’s Story

Site created on February 15, 2019

Kathy just turned 65, enjoys living in her small mountain community, and loves to spend time with her five grandchildren, two in Denver and three in Olympia, Washington. At this time in her life, she and and her husband Joe need help from caring friends and family in order to get her well. She has pancreatic cancer, a very aggressive disease. She has been very healthy but suddenly found out she had the cancer on January 20 almost by accident. Michelle came over and was surprised by how yellow Kathy’s eyes and skin were (caused by the tumor blocking her bile duct). Trips to urgent care, the emergency room, the hospital, and tests gave her the diagnosis, which was confirmed by biopsies two days later. Since then it has been a whirlwind of visits to her team of doctors and specialists and more tests.

She will be having a Whipple surgery on February 21, which will remove the tumor, up to half her pancreas, gall bladder, a foot of intestine, adjacent lymph nodes, and probably part of her stomach. The surgery will necessitate rebuilding the “plumbing” connections in her gut. Six months of chemo will follow as soon as she is able to tolerate it (probably a couple of months). The disease requires this radical surgery and chemo but hopefully will get rid of the cancer and give her many good years to live. Several factors improve her prognosis, including the small size of tumor, the location of the tumor at the head of the pancreas (which revealed the disease earlier and improves her recovery), her relatively young age and prior good health, and very good, experienced doctors. But most of all she has a very positive and can-do attitude, which will greatly help her chances of beating the disease. 

She will be in the hospital a minimum of eight days and have an extensive recovery to get functional and regain strength. Joe’s full-time job is to be her primary caregiver, but besides prayer there will be many tasks that could be done by friends and family that would greatly assist Kathy anid Joe in her care and give her the best chance to get well. We hope the CaringBridge app will provide the means for volunteers to easily find out about Kathy’s status and progress and how they can help. Kathy and Joe will be very grateful for help with the many little things needed, as well as bigger things.

Peace and love to you all! Kathy and Joe

Newest Update

Journal entry by Joe Mantione

4/28/19, pm Update

I haven’t been doing CaringBridge lately because it has been more of the same for Kathy—a day-to day grind managing her symptoms as they ebb and flow across good and bad days. Significantly increasing her pancreatic digestive enzymes (along with her medicines and lots of electrolytes) has helped her symptoms at times and helped her eat a little better. Her weight was relatively stable since the last chemo (yeah!). The Oncology staff hopes her body will adjust better so her symptoms will improve, and so that they don’t need to reduce the intensity of her chemo regimen to solve this problem—something the Oncology staff and Kathy don’t want to do unless absolutely necessary—since it would likely reduce the chemo’s effectiveness. 

Kathy did purchase a pretty pre-tied head scarf, since her hair loss has been so severe. She expects she will go completely bald soon, but time will tell. Joe’s sister sent her some really beautiful old scarves that were worn by Joe’s deceased mom—a real keepsake treasure. She will figure out how to tie them by consulting YouTube and appreciate wearing them. 

Kathy was supposed to have chemo #3 last Wednesday. However, her blood tests on Monday and repeat tests early on Wednesday morning showed her white blood cell (WBC) counts were too low to proceed with chemo. They postponed her chemo a week until May 1 and pushed out the 3 or 4 already scheduled chemos as well. The expectation is that her WBCs will recover sufficiently with an extra week before her next chemo. Thereafter she will take a drug that will stimulate her WBCs so that hopefully the counts won’t be too low before the next chemo. For this WBC stimulant drug, she will be giving herself a shot on five consecutive days starting right after her at-home chemo is done. 

So, we will continue to stay positive and do what we can to cope with symptoms, improve Kathy’s nutrition, and get her well step-by-step over the long haul. Kathy is proving just how strong and resilient her spirit is by running her chemo gauntlet. 

Please continue to send prayers and healing spirit to Kathy. We really appreciate all the moral and physical support that we are getting from many family and friends. 

Peace and love to you all! Kathy and Joe

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