Survivor Stories
July 6, 2017 • 3 Min

Pancreatic Cancer Found By Chance

Barry Reiter

pancreatic cancer patient Barry Reiter
  • Prostate cancer diagnosis leads to discovery of pancreatic cancer
  • Treatment with FOLFIRINOX
  • Surgery to remove tumor
  • No evidence of disease

In April of 2015 as part of a routine physical I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Prior to surgery to remove my prostate I had a presurgical MRI. That MRI diagnosed pancreatic cancer, and I now had bigger worries.

The phone call came on July 1st, 2015 at 9 a.m. It was from Dr. Brian McNelis, the oncologist who had treated me for lymphoma in 2011. I thought that was very odd but I knew he was following my situation. He asked me if I was sitting down. I was not, so I took a seat at my desk. Then he said it: “I am sorry to tell you. You have pancreatic cancer.”

I collapsed. My life was over. My life, my wife, my children, my grandchildren. What about them? I cried for days. I was told to get my final affairs in order. I did just that and I was in tears the whole time.

Treatment Starts, with Surgery the Goal

I had an endoscopic ultrasound at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island for the diagnosis. Then I called Memorial Sloan Kettering, where I had a CT scan and blood work. After the testing, Dr. Zoe Goldberg and surgeon Dr. Michael D’Angelica determined that I had stage III, locally advanced pancreatic cancer. I was not a surgical candidate. So they started me on what most of us know as the worst chemo on the planet, FOLFIRINOX. Six months later I received a call from my surgeon Dr. D’Angelica that the committee at Sloan Kettering had decided they were ready to try and perform surgery.

I had a distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy on January 19th, 2016. I almost passed twice post-surgery but I was lucky to make it through after 22 days in Sloan Kettering. One day while still in the hospital Dr. D’Angelica came into my room and sat down on my bed. He told me the pathology had come back. Then he said “You are NED. No evidence of disease.” Tumor markers were clear and all my lymph nodes tested were clean.

That was probably the happiest moment I had in the past year and a half. I was crying almost uncontrollably. My wife Hildee and I embraced and cried. It was totally incredible.

Helping Others with Pancreatic Cancer

I never thought I would be so grateful that I had prostate cancer. I am so very thankful for the support and love that I received from my son Josh and my wife Hildee. I don’t think I could have made it through without them at times.

I have learned how important having a positive attitude is. I now raise money for both the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the Lustgarten Foundation. I also run an online support group for pancreatic cancer patients, their caregivers, and families.

The support group has become a second family to me. We HOPE, PRAY, CRY, CELEBRATE, GET ANGRY, and MOURN with each other. But most importantly we HOPE. Every day we HOPE for a CURE.

Three and a half years after diagnosis, Barry lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. He founded the Facebook support group Pancreatic Cancer: NEGU. He also lived by that motto: Never Ever Give Up. We offer our deepest sympathy to Barry’s family.

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