Survivor Stories
October 6, 2021 • 2 Min

Following a Treatment Plan

Virginia Wetcher

pancreatic cancer patient Virginia Wetcher
  • Possible kidney stone turns out to be pancreatic cancer
  • Chemotherapy and radiation
  • Whipple surgery followed by more chemotherapy

I thought I had another kidney stone.

In June 2018 I developed pain in my mid and lower back. The pain was getting worse when I noticed that my abdomen was distended. Then my urine turned black, and I became jaundiced. I went to the hospital, where I had an MRI and underwent endoscopy. The doctors noted a biliary obstruction and I had an ERCP to put in a stent to open my bile duct. The diagnosis: stage IIb pancreatic cancer.

As a retired oncology nurse I knew the survival rate for this cancer was very low. I was very angry.

Getting Treatment

I went to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, not far from my home in Sun City Center. I met with Dr. Pamela Hodul, a gastrointestinal surgeon. She recommended that I start chemotherapy with Gemzar and Abraxane, and radiation, followed by Whipple surgery and then another round of chemotherapy again with the same drugs. I was an oncology nurse for 45 years and worked with many cancer patients, and I was confident that Dr. Hodul’s plan was what I needed.

The treatment was grueling and I had side effects. I was very sick, with nausea, weight loss, and fatigue. I also ended up with a low white blood cell count and low platelet count. Plus, I had multiple kidney stones.

I had the Whipple surgery in mid-December 2018. I was in the hospital for two weeks after that, and I needed a feeding tube for six weeks.

During treatment I had genetic testing, but no mutations that would affect treatment were found.

Celebrating Life

I have been cancer-free for the past two and half years! I even remarried since being cancer-free.

I have to take Creon with meals and snacks. I go for scans and blood work every three months, and meet with my oncologist, hematologist, and urologist during that time.

I am 78 and I have a wonderful life!

I have just been diagnosed.

What should I do?

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