Survivor Stories
November 15, 2022 • 3 Min

Advocating for My Husband has Made the Difference

Nora Mendez

Hector Mendez and his daughter and son
  • Stage IV diagnosis
  • Learning to advocate for my husband
  • Battling insurance for better treatment
  • Working with pancreatic cancer experts

In May 2021 my husband Hector had a terrible pain on his left upper side

He went to our local ER and was admitted. He stayed in the hospital for five days as the doctors got the pain under control. They did scans and found three spots in the head of his pancreas. But they told us it was nothing to worry about.

When Hector got home, we went to the GI doctor, but it took months to do a scan. His words to us were, “Don’t worry, it’s NOT CANCER.” We were sooo happy to hear those words.

Plans Upended

To celebrate our 36th anniversary in November we planned a trip to Guatemala. We purchased airline tickets and rented a beautiful home in front of a lake. But before we could go, something scary happened. On August 20 my dearest Hector turned yellow completely. I said, “We’re not going to the same hospital or doctors.” 

We went to Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles instead. On August 21, 2021, we found out that Hector has stage IV pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his liver. We were devastated. This was the worst news we had ever had. 

My goal was to do all in my power to help him. I found PanCAN and I learned so much. The staff at PanCAN guided me on what to do, what to ask, and how to be his Best Advocate. Thank you PanCAN! 

Learning to Advocate

Dr. Andrew Hendifar at Cedars-Sinai works with PanCAN and was recommended to us. But I had to fight with Hector’s insurance company to move him to Dr. Hendifar. Finally, after so many phone calls and filling out papers, my dearest husband is getting the best care ever. 

The road has not been smooth. Hector almost died five times from complications from chemo! However, since January 2022 we have not had any visits to the ER. 

Right now he is getting Abraxane infusions for three weeks, with one week off. His tumor markers are down from more than 3200. We are blessed that it has been more than a year and half since he was diagnosed and he’s feeling good and keeps fighting this horrible disease.  

PanCAN really opened my eyes about my husband’s condition and I have gotten all kinds of information. For example I have been reading and learning about nutrition and what to cook for him, which has been a big help in building his strength for this battle for his life.

I have learned so much in this journey and we keep learning every day. We’re blessed and thankful for so many people who guided me to find the best care, the best doctors, and the best hospital for my husband. The love and support of our kids Jacob and Michelle has been so important—without them we wouldn’t be strong. We are still fighting but are very happy that Hector is with us every morning! 

Never give up and keep your faith and positiveness. Our story is still going and we are counting every minute of it!