Survivor Stories
September 21, 2017 • 3 Min

Always Looking for a Cure

Linda Milazzo

Linda Milazzo and her daughter
  • Treatment starts with a Whipple procedure
  • Chemotherapy and radiation
  • More chemotherapy and radiation to treat a reoccurrence
  • CyberKnife to knock out another tumor

I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2015.

In July 2008 I was hospitalized for pancreatitis. I had never heard of it before. I soon found out that people who drink a lot can get pancreatitis . . . I don’t drink. They kept me in the hospital for four days, and then I was well enough so they discharged me. In hindsight . . . I think this may have been the beginning of my pancreatic cancer. But due to lack of easy testing for this disease it went unnoticed.

I was healthy for the next seven years. But in July 2015 my stomach ached. It just felt weird so I decided to go to the ER at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, New York. I was diagnosed with pancreatitis again. They kept me for four days. By then I was feeling better and was discharged once again.

But in August I still felt “off.” I was always tired, and my stomach was hurting. So in early September I went back to the ER. This time they kept me nine days. I was sent from Mather to Stony Brook University Hospital, where they did every known test.

From Pancreatitis to Pancreatic Cancer

On September 18th, a group of doctors came into my room and told me that I have pancreatic cancer, with a tumor on the head of my pancreas. I don’t think the news sunk in right away, as it wasn’t a cancer I was familiar with. I was told to find a surgeon to see if I’m eligible for the Whipple. “Yeah ok,” I thought, “What’s a Whipple?” Did I learn fast!

I did my research and found Dr. Mitchell Chorost at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, New York. I knew he was the one to help me. On October 8th he performed the 8 1/2 hour surgery. He removed my tumor, part of my stomach, my gallbladder, one ovary, and he rearranged my intestines. Most of all he gave me hope.

My oncologist Dr. David Chu at New York Cancer and Blood Specialists in Port Jefferson, New York, started me on six months of chemotherapy with Gemzar and Abraxane in December. After completing the chemo in June 2016, there was no visible cancer. Victory!

The Cancer Comes Back

When I went for a checkup four months later, another tumor had popped up in a different part of my pancreas. Six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy with Xeloda rendered me clear again. Victory #2.

But in May 2017 my PET scan showed that another tumor popped up in yet another spot. This time I had CyberKnife radiation, a form of targeted radiation treatment. While I was waiting for results my CA 19-9 level went from 62 to 4,170. My CA 19-9 level has always been an indicator for reoccurrence of the cancer in me, so I was very nervous. In September I had a PET scan and a CT scan, and the cancer returned, with a tumor on the tail of my pancreas. And it spread to my abdomen, my liver, my lymph nodes, and there are some lesions on my lungs. I started chemo with Gemzar and Abraxane. I need a miracle.

Since my diagnosis my life has been non-stop doctor visits. I am always looking for the cure!!! I hope and pray we find it.

Linda passed away 3 ½ years after her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. We offer deep sympathy to her family, and greatly appreciate her willingness to share her story with Let’s Win.

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