Living with Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer Survivor Camille Altgelt

•    Surgery not an option
•    Chemotherapy with FOLFIRINOX
•    Radiation and Xeloda
•    Searching for a clinical trial, with no success
•    Treatments prove successful

In June 2011 I was diagnosed with stage III locally advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

The tumor encased the celiac, hepatic, splenic, and mesenteric arteries. Two regional lymph nodes were involved as well.

Because the tumor was wrapped around the arteries I was unable to have surgery to remove the cancer. My other option was chemotherapy and radiation. My doctors at the University of California, San Francisco, made it clear that treatment would not be curative.

I started treatment with Dr. Andrew Ko. I received eight cycles of FOLFIRINOX, followed by six weeks of radiation coupled with Xeloda. My treatment ended in December of 2011. Upon completion of the radiation I was told there was no other treatment available to me.

Unsuccessful Search for Clinical Trials

I was determined to find experimental therapies and treatments other than the standard ones offered for pancreatic cancer. I traveled around the country to get in to a clinical trial but, unfortunately, did not qualify. I also tried for several years to have surgery but again did not qualify. As it has turned out, I have been very lucky and I have done well and have not needed either.

Success with Chemotherapy and Radiation

I now work with another oncologist, Dr. Elizabeth Odumakinde. Dr. Odumakinde follows me closely and orders all my labs and scans. Since the end of my treatment my CA 19-9 level has remained at around 10. My last CT scan was in November 2015. No mass was seen and there was no significant change since the previous exam in November 2014. There was no metastatic disease.

I asked Dr. Ko and Dr. Odumakinde what they thought of these findings. They have determined that I am their miracle patient! Dr. Odumakinde even presented my case history to a national cancer symposium recently.

I just celebrated the fifth anniversary of my diagnosis. Throughout, I have kept a positive attitude in spite of being told I had a year at most to live. I have regained all but six pounds of my original weight. I have no physical or dietary restrictions. I walk three miles a day and am physically very active. I keep my immune system as strong as I can and fully believe that I will be living a full life for many years to come!

I am involved with an organization that allows me to mentor other people with pancreatic cancer. My hope is that others afflicted with this disease not give up and realize that they are unique individuals and not a statistic, something that is so difficult to do when faced with this diagnosis. Knowledge is power!

Other patients have been treated with FOLFIRINOX. Read “Pancreatic Cancer Can Mimic Other Health Problems” and “A New Clinical Trial Leads to No Evidence of Disease.” The Clinical Trials story “Testing the Effectiveness of Radiation and Standard Treatment” compares treatment regimens.