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

Following a very successful Whipple surgery on Monday, June 17th, and subsequent good recovery, I return to Ithaca a couple of weeks earlier than originally planned. I fly into Ithaca tomorrow afternoon, Monday, July 1st.
 
Surgery is a destructive art. And Dr. Evans and his team are artists. The unique way he had to repair my cancer-involved vein enabled him to remove more of it, further reducing the chance he left any cancer behind. As you'll read further below, much of this is a "numbers" game and thus one does all one can to improve the odds even if no single action can be determined to be 100% effective against this cancer returning.
 
As is a normal aspect of this operation, my jugular vein in my neck was harvested since we all have an excess of it and thus it can easily be reconnected. About 5 cm was used, but the neck scar is much longer. But that scar length is nothing like the scar in my abdomen, which runs from below the chest to just around and beyond my belly button.
 
The pathology report indicates the margins are clean (no detection of remaining cancer cells left behind) and the lymph nodes were also negative for involvement. The latter is a manual, painstaking process so most places would have analyzed about 15 lymph nodes. Dr. Evans had his team analyze 42 of my lymph nodes so finding that all of those were negative gives us even greater confidence for long-term success.
 
This specific paragraph can be skipped if survivability numbers are not your thing. Here goes: At this point, I have about 1/3 chance of living past 5 years, which for this cancer after that point very likely means I'm cured. (This cancer usually doesn't lay dormant for long and likely will otherwise manifest in the liver or in what is left of the pancreas sooner than that, if it's still around.) This is clearly an improvement from the 9% survival number on original diagnosis, thanks to successful reactions to chemotherapy and radiation-plus-chemo, and now this surgery. I see no reason not to hope for this realistic outcome of having defeated this cancer and to plan accordingly, even as I keep the alternatives in mind. The alternatives are as follows: For those who don't make it to 5 years, 1/2 of them (1/3 of the total) die within 3-5 years from this cancer. And the rest (again, 1/3 of the total) die within a year or two.
 
Back to details about my operation. 55% of my pancreas was left behind and so far it continues to do its job of producing insulin and managing my blood sugars so hopefully I will not become diabetic. The pancreas also has separate cells which produce digestive enzymes and I am taking oral pills with enzymes with my meals to determine at what level I might need to supplement the pancreas's enzyme production. I may discover I will need to take these pills with my main meals for the rest of my life, which was an expected outcome from this operation.
 
On Thursday, my mother and I had the delight of watching, via streaming, my daughter Cady graduate from Ithaca High School. She sang in the chorus as part of the ceremony. She'll be working as a counselor this summer, as in the past, at a 4H summer camp in nearby Walkins Glen so I'll see her on occasional weekends. And in September she'll be off adventuring to South Africa, starting off volunteering for three months at an animal sanctuary. And I'm also lucky that my son Peter continues living nearby and thus I get to see him on a regular basis, often over a good meal Amelia has prepared for us. Lots to be thankful for, and to look forward to.
 
The outpouring of support, of which this site has shown a great representation, has been invaluable through my 9-month journey so far. Thank you, all, so very, very much for all you have done for me and my family!
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