Survivor Stories
June 11, 2021 • 2 Min

Faith in My Survival

Harry Schlechte

pancreatic cancer survivor Harry Schlechte
  • Jaundice caused me to go to the doctor
  • Whipple surgery
  • After recovery, radiation and chemotherapy

My cancer started in March 1998, when I was 59.

My stomach and back were very painful, and then I got jaundice. I went to Dr. Kevin Konzen at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, not too far from my home in Glen Carbon, Illinois. Dr. Konzen sent me for an ultrasound, MRI, and X-rays. After he got my results, he sent me to Dr. Steven Strasberg (now retired) at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

Surgery and Maybe a Chance to Survive

Dr. Strasberg looked at the X-rays and said I would need to have the Whipple operation. He then told me the odds of surviving advanced pancreatic cancer were about 2 percent. He said I most likely had a chance to live at least six weeks but not more than six months. I had the surgery on April 7, 1998. At the time of my surgery my CA 19-9 was over 190.

The surgery was supposed to last eight hours, but Dr. Strasberg found that the tumor had spread to my liver, and he had to get a vascular surgeon to help remove the tumor there. My operation lasted more than 10 hours.

After the surgery I spent 12 days in the hospital recovering. Then I went home to recuperate for seven weeks before starting chemotherapy and radiation treatments. During my recuperation I spent time reading the Bible and books from the Reverend Billy Graham, and also praying. While reading one day, on the bottom of the page I saw the words “You will know in a few days.” About three or four days later it happened again, but this time the words said, “You will be healed.” This gave me faith.

I went back to work on June 1, and began my treatment—radiation and chemotherapy, five days a week. The treatments ended on July 21, 1998. Since then I have not had any recurrence, although I developed kidney stones a few years later and had to have them blasted twice in the summer of 2001.

Life After

I have undergone genetic testing twice, in 2017 and 2021, because my family was concerned about the relationship between my cancer and genetic mutations. Both times I was negative for related mutations. I am now 82 years old, still living in Glen Carbon, Illinois, and enjoying my life.

I have just been diagnosed.

What should I do?

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