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Pancreatic Cancer During the Pandemic

Pancreatic cancer patient Barbara Wojciechowski

• Itching and dark urine lead to pancreatic cancer diagnosis
• Whipple surgery
• Chemotherapy with FOLFIRINOX

I was diagnosed with stage I pancreatic cancer in May 2020, at age 64.

I went to the doctor because my body was itching and my urine was dark-colored. At first, I blamed the vitamins I had started to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. I stopped taking the vitamins, but I still had the itching and dark urine. I called my gastroenterologist, Dr. Neil Brodsky, and when my symptoms still did not get better, he sent me for blood work and an ultrasound. The tests showed something wrong with my bile duct. An MRI showed a mass in my pancreas.

During all of this I was getting sicker—I was nauseous and not eating and was getting jaundiced. I met with Dr. Matthew Weiss, a surgical oncologist at Northwell Health Cancer Institute (New Hyde Park, New York). After more blood work and a CT scan, I was told that I likely had pancreatic cancer.

Treatment During COVID

Dr. Weiss recommended that I have Whipple surgery, followed by chemotherapy. I had the surgery on May 20, 2020. I was in the hospital for seven days after surgery. Because of COVID my husband could not visit, although he delivered cards that were brought up to me. I was able to see my family over FaceTime.

After I recovered from surgery I met with my oncologist, Dr. Wasif Saif. He started me on FOLFIRINOX every two weeks. I had some side effects from the treatment, including tiredness, weakness, some nausea, lack of appetite, and some neuropathy. But overall, I tolerated the treatment fairly well.

I underwent genetic testing, but no mutations were found.

My latest update regarding treatment is that I will be having routine CT scans and visits with my oncologist and his physician assistant. If everything looks good, I will be able to have my chemo port removed at some point this year.

Looking Forward

I am finished with treatment and my latest CT scan looked very good; no metastasis in any of the surrounding organs or areas. I am feeling stronger every day and I recently went back to work remotely, part-time, and am slowly getting back to living the life I was living prior to my cancer diagnosis.


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