Survivor Stories
March 4, 2024 • 3 Min

Cancer-Free and Running Strong

Janice Canfield

Janice Canfield in the Antarctic
  • Jaundiced skin plus liver enzymes ten times higher than normal
  • Whipple procedure and chemotherapy
  • Life on the go

Pancreatic cancer came into my life out of nowhere in September 2022, when I was 57 years old.

I am a runner, nurse, avid traveler, and mother of four. I’m a nurse practitioner with a doctorate degree and have worked at Long Island Jewish Medical Center (New Hyde Park, New York) for many years. My family has no history of cancer. So I didn’t think much of it when my father noticed that my face was slightly yellow. I thought that maybe it was an end-of-summer tan.

Jaundice and No Pain

To be extra safe, I checked in with my doctor . . . and I am so glad that I did! He ran some blood tests, which indicated that my liver enzymes were ten times higher than normal. I  wasn’t in pain and that concerned my doctor very much. He explained that “jaundiced skin in the absence of pain could be sinister.”  He told me to go to the emergency room at North Shore University Hospital (Manhasset, New York) as soon as possible.

The ER doctors ordered a CT scan for me. I was expecting the results to say that I had liver cancer. Instead, they showed that I had a mass at the head of my pancreas that was compressing my bile duct. It was pancreatic cancer.

Seven-Hour Surgery

I was immediately scheduled for a Whipple procedure at North Shore University Hospital with surgeon Dr. William Nealon. He removed part of my pancreas, small intestine, gallbladder, and bile duct, along with the tumor. In all, the surgery lasted seven hours. All of this happened within weeks of my father’s initial comment about my skin tone. Just like running a race, you have to move fast with cancer if you want to win. His P.A. Danielle Pinto was a great help to me.

After the surgery, I began six months of chemotherapy from November 2022 to May 2023. My oncologist Dr. Craig Devoe helped me plan my treatment so that I could work at my own hospital throughout those six months, with the help of P.A. Syed Haque. I was grateful for the opportunity to keep working through my treatment.

After all of that, I was cancer-free.

Back in the Racing Lane

The cancer was strong, but I am stronger. I had great support from my family, especially from my daughter, a cardiac nurse who supported me throughout my cancer journey. After I finished my treatment, I jumped back into the racing lane. In September 2023 I participated in the Great Cow Harbor 10K Run on Long Island with 28 members of my family and friends. Our team was known as Janice’s Purple Penguins. My sons and my daughter ran the 10K by my side.

I participated in the Lustgarten Foundation’s Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk and signed on with Project Purple to do a half marathon in New York City in March 2024. Awareness and advocacy for pancreatic cancer are near and dear to my heart, so I am happy to bring attention to the disease in ways that are meaningful to me.

What came next? A long-anticipated trip with my daughter to Peru and Antarctica, which had originally been planned for January 2023 but was canceled due to my diagnosis. Our climb of Machu Picchu was a highlight, but the penguins on the southernmost continent stole the show. They were, after all, the inspiration for my Cow Harbor race team name!