My story begins a few years ago when I began experiencing some back pain and it just wouldn’t go away. I had previously had kidney stones so I knew the signs and believed that was what was wrong with me. Finally, the symptoms were so severe that I went to the emergency room to be properly diagnosed, and was sent home with some pain medication and advised to visit a gastroenterologist.
After a few more days and a few more scans, the gastroenterologist called me into his office and told me that he was very worried about me as I was very, very sick. I didn’t expect the diagnosis to be anything other than kidney stones so I didn’t bring any one else with me to my appointment. He then proceeded to tell me that I had pancreatic cancer and led me to believe that I had only months to live. I was in shock; I didn’t know what to think. I felt so overwhelmed and helpless. He advised me to visit with an oncologist.
A few days later, the oncologist told me the news that I did indeed have pancreatic cancer but that I had a rare form of pancreatic cancer called neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer. He continued to tell me that this type of cancer was what Steve Jobs had (coincidentally he had died the day before) and it is a very slow growing cancer and that I probably had it for the past five years. I never heard much about neuroendocrine cancer before and I was somewhat relieved when he told me that my journey would be more manageable than if I had the more common type of pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, I was classified as having Stage IV cancer as it already had metastasized and the neuroendocrine tumors in both my liver and pancreas were too extensive and wide spread to be surgically removed.
My oncologist suggested that I start treatment that would keep the cancer from growing. That was fine but I didn’t understand – why not go in and fight this cancer? He didn’t offer me any other options to kill or reduce the cancer – no surgery, no radiation, no chemotherapy. I knew that I couldn’t win this battle without giving a good fight. That’s when I decided to get another opinion and I reached out to a nationally recognized cancer center. It was there where I met my treating physician, who specializes in neuroendocrine cancer. She told me that there was little to no hope that I would ever be cured. Cancer would be a part of my life forever. She told me that our goal together was to treat my cancer while providing me with the best quality of life I could have with this disease. And we have done just that.
It’s been almost four years since I was first diagnosed. I’ve now gone through chemotherapy by pill and Sirs-spheres targeted radiation on my liver. My prognosis is sort of like a tug-a-war. Some days I am winning and other days the cancer is gaining ground. But with my family, friends and doctors cheering me on, I am better off than I was when I first was diagnosed. I visit my doctor every two to three months. I just turned 60 years old, and I am still active at work where I just celebrated 28 years of service. I am still continuing my life doing the things I love, such as spending quality time with family and friends, cooking, fishing, and traveling.
© 2015 Ipsen Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. August 2015 IPS00306