Oliver’s Story

Site created on August 31, 2018

Welcome to our CaringBridge website. You can share this easy address to get to this page:  http://oliver.habichts.net/. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement left here. And please refrain from sending Oliver email, texting, or calling him at this time.  Amelia is committed to taking things a day at a time and may be delayed or non-responsive to any message she receives. Our more frequent updates are available at http://twitter.com/habichthealth

Summary and current status: Oliver was increasingly ill in August 2018 and late that month he went to his doctor. He was quickly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer within a couple of days. Oliver subsequently completed 6 months of chemotherapy every-other-week in Ithaca, for a total of 12 sessions. About a month later he had almost daily radiation treatments in New York City for three weeks. Finally, Oliver had significant abdominal surgery performed June 17, 2019, in Milwaukee, a procedure which removed about 45% of his pancreas along with other components. As of July 11, 2019, he continues to get stronger as he recovers from surgery. We can now all hope he will remain cancer-free.

The story begins when Oliver had not felt well for more than a week, with fatigue and increasingly yellow skin and eyes, along with other symptoms but no pains.
On Monday, August  27, 2018, he arranged to see his doctor during work hours. Tests were conducted and imaging was ordered for the next day. He then biked back up the hill to finish out the workday.
Tuesday (8/28) was picture day: An abdominal ultrasound detected a mass pressing closed the common bile duct, followed by a CT scan later that day to better characterize the 3 cm (1.1 inches) mass in the head of the pancreas. Such growths are 95% cancerous.
Wednesday (8/29) was fix-the-blocked-bile-duct day (ERCP), in which a plastic stent enabled the bile to again flow, with an overnight stay at the hospital in case of blood clots and for general post-op monitoring.
On Thursday (8/30), Oliver was discharged in the morning in time to go home and then attend a working lunch. And he felt well enough to work for a few hours before going home.
Friday morning (8/31) was spent preparing for a long holiday weekend departure that afternoon to the Adirondacks with family and friends. We returned Monday late afternoon, after much fun and joy. 
By Wednesday (9/5) we received results from various clinical tests and it was confirmed the mass was indeed cancer. We knew at the time that the road ahead was going to be uncertain and rough. With that in mind, we thank you so very much for visiting this site to keep up with the rest of Oliver's story within this site's Journal entries and for repeatedly leaving your kind and generous messages of support.

Newest Update

Journal entry by Oliver Habicht

I continue to have no cancer symptoms and my most recent high-resolution CT scan indicates no evidence of a cancer tumor. However, there is a tumor marker in the blood called CA 19-9 which continues to rise, triggering more frequent imaging studies. Details available below for those who care to learn more about that marker and its possible significance.
My physical recovery continued on a positive trajectory as Amelia and I traveled to visit with family and friends in New Mexico, Colorado, and Florida over 3 weeks in December and January. In January I entered two running races, including completing a one hour 10K (6.2 miles) race during Disney World’s Marathon Weekend. (Photo available at http://twitter.com/habichthealth.) Shout-out to Cigna, carrier of Cornell’s disability benefits, for their super-generous sponsorship of me in the race, in coordination with the Achilles organization for disabled athletes. Cigna provided Amelia and me two nights at a swank resort hotel, flights to and from Florida, wonderful meals, and Disney World tickets for two the following day. Then, this past weekend, I ran a mile in 8 minutes at a highly-regarded indoor running event, the 53rd annual Hartshorne Masters Mile, right here in Ithaca. These are noteworthy accomplishments for me since I was unable to complete a mile run when I first tried running one while visiting with family in Ohio in mid-October, a situation which subsequently inspired me to actually (gulp!) train for these distances and times. As many of you can appreciate, the race dates served as great motivators!
I also recently restarted an every-other-day "bodyweight" 30-minute workout program at home which has worked well for me many times in the past (Mark Lauren’s “You Are Your Own Gym” book). And I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work at Cornell at a lower-stress, casual appointment, currently putting in about 10 hours per week. I am learning new things in a supportive work environment, contributing meaningfully, and the work also gets me out of the house! I find I am needing to nap and otherwise rest more frequently as I do more, which is apparently to be expected at this stage of treatment and surgical recovery. In the months ahead I do hope to get back into flying again as soon as things align properly, including having improved weather. :-)
This paragraph is for those who care for further details on the CA 19-9 blood marker number which can rise in certain types of cancer, including mine, and can also rise for other reasons. My CA 19-9 was 2,500 U/mL at first detection in August 2018 and it decreased with chemo treatment. Following my surgery in mid-June, it was just 23 U/mL on August 18, 2019, which is below the "normal" upper range of 35 U/mL and thus was a very good sign. This compares to my most recent measurement of 357 U/mL from blood drawn Jan. 14, 2020. Looking at additional measurements made over the past few months, a rough approximation indicates that this number appears to be doubling about every 6 weeks. Note that although higher CA 19-9 numbers do not necessarily indicate the presence of cancer, they do indicate a high probability of having a recurrence of my cancer and thus do call on us to do more frequent imaging studies, such as CT scans. We continue to hope for an absence of visually detectable tumors in those scans, even as we look harder for such evidence, and for the continuing absence of concerning symptoms.
On my part, as long as I remain symptom-free, I see every reason to continue moving solidly forward to live life as it comes.
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