Facing Life’s Challenges
- Stomach pain leads to pancreatic cancer diagnosis
- Surgery to remove pancreas tail, followed by chemotherapy and radiation
- Pancreatic cancer recurs
- Whipple procedure
I went to the emergency room with intense abdominal pain in August 2015.
I had stomach pain after a dinner out with my wife, and when the pain did not go away after a day, I went to the hospital. I was diagnosed with an inflamed gall bladder and pancreatitis, and had surgery to remove the gall bladder. At a post-surgery visit, my GI doctor suggested I have an endoscopy, because he noticed a pinch in my bile duct. The endoscopy showed pancreatic cancer. I was so surprised, because I have always been healthy, I exercised, and I had no symptoms.
A Treatment Plan
My goddaughter is an oncologist specializing in pancreatic cancer, so I called her for advice. She arranged for me to meet Dr. Gregory Springett, an oncologist, and Dr. Pamela Hodul, a surgeon, at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. We live in Winter Park, which is not too close but not too far. I had another endoscopy and then we set up a treatment plan.
First, I had surgery to remove the tail of my pancreas and my spleen. The surgery showed that the pancreatic cancer had not spread, so I was stage II. This was followed by six months of chemotherapy with gemcitabine, and radiation treatments. My wife and I drove from home to Moffitt for my weekly treatments. Other than a lack of energy, I did not have notable side effects.
When the treatment was done in March of 2016, I had a new normal.
Second Time Around: Whipple Procedure
In 2017, my wife and I had just returned from a cruise celebrating our 50th anniversary when she noticed that I looked yellow. I suggested I had eaten too many yellow foods, but my wife insisted I was jaundiced. So, we went back to Moffitt, where we found that my pancreatic cancer had returned.
In November 2017 Dr. Hodul performed a Whipple procedure. Then I had more chemotherapy with gemcitabine and Xeloda, with Dr. Richard Kim.
I have some neuropathy in my feet and nerve damage in my right leg. But overall, I am feeling good.
John passed away six months after sharing his story. We offer our deepest sympathy to his family and greatly appreciate that he was willing to tell his story to Let’s Win.