Survivor Stories
August 5, 2020 • 3 Min

Why ME?

Harry Sparks

pancreatic cancer patient Harry Sparks and family
  • Jaundice leads to pancreatic cancer diagnosis
  • After consulting two doctors I have chemotherapy with FOLFIRINOX
  • More chemo, plus radiation, then Whipple surgery
  • After surgery more chemo

I am hoping that this story has a happy ending. So far it is going great.

I was at work November 1, 2017, and I was not feeling the best. I had been having stomach issues for a week. I was tired as well. November in Michigan is overcast and dark. That is probably why my wife did not notice the jaundice. In the work environment the lighting is brighter. My coworker came in my office and said I looked yellow. I called my wife and she called our doctor and they got me in right away. He ran tests, sent me for an ultrasound and then they scheduled me for an ERCP. The ERCP was done on November 6, and the doctors tried to put a stent in my bile duct because it was blocked but there were issues. I had to go back three days later to have it done again. That’s when we were told I had stage I to IIb pancreatic cancer on the head of my pancreas. Why ME?

I have been healthy all my life. I am not overweight, I don’t smoke, and I drink very little alcohol. So this was a shocker to us all.

Taking Steps, Getting a Second Opinion

After the diagnosis we met with Dr. David Kwon and the oncology team at Henry Ford Health to discuss my treatment. They wanted me to have a Whipple first and then chemo afterwards. We decided to get a second opinion at Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. The team at Karmanos recommended chemo first. I did four rounds of FOLFIRINOX and Xeloda. I hated it, because of the side effects, particularly nausea and depression. We went back to Dr. Kwon to get a CT scan. He said that the tumor had not shrunk. Why ME?

My wife had heard of a doctor in Milwaukee who performed a lot of Whipples. I was reluctant to go, but we went, and I believe that it was the best call we made. We met with Dr. Douglas Evans at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. I had chemo with Gemzar and radiation here in Michigan for five weeks and then I was able to get the Whipple done on May 8, 2018. The surgery went great. I was released from the hospital in six days, but had to go back the next day because my port got infected. I had two weeks of antibiotics and then I got shingles. That was the worst and the most painful of everything. Why ME?

Three of my lymph nodes had some cancer cells, so my doctor recommended that I do six months of chemo. I made it to the fifth month and told the doctor that I could not do anymore. He said that was ok and that I have had enough and was doing great.

Support and Looking Forward

We are blessed to have a great support group. One is with our church and the other with great friends. So far we have talked to seven people with the same diagnosis and two of them went to Milwaukee for the same treatment with Dr. Evans. All are doing well.

I know there is more that I could write, but I thank GOD for getting me through this.

I want to read stories about other patients.

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