Survivor Stories
May 4, 2021 • 2 Min

You Only Have One Life to Live

Thomas Stachler

pancreatic cancer patient Thomas Stachler
  • Tumor blocking my bile duct
  • Chemotherapy was unsuccessful
  • Radiation, then Whipple surgery

I was 65 and active when I began having some discomfort under my rib cage.

I went to my doctor at the Michigan Medicine at University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and after some tests he found a tumor at the head of my pancreas.  My bile duct was dilated because the tumor was blocking it. I was diagnosed with stage II pancreatic cancer.

Unsuccessful Chemotherapy

I started treatment with FOLFIRINOX at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Cancer Center in Ypsilanti, not far from my home in Saline. But the chemotherapy was not working after four courses, so I began looking for another doctor. I am a real estate broker, and a client who happens to be an oncologist recommended Dr. Douglas Evans, a surgical oncologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee. I traveled to meet Dr. Evans and felt very confident in his team, so I switched doctors, even though Milwaukee is quite a distance from my home.

Dr. Evans got me into a high-dose radiation trial and I had stereotactic body radiation therapy, which lowered my disease markers. That showed the treatment was working. The size of my tumor was reduced, which prepped me for surgery. I had a Whipple in June 2019. I highly recommend Dr. Evans and his team to anyone with pancreatic cancer.

Life After Treatment

I promised myself that I would buy an RV and travel more if I survived the surgery. A month later I did just that.

I am 67 now. I was getting scans every four months but that was switched to every six months just recently.

I still work but I try to spend some time each month traveling in my RV. During COVID I got a pup for stress relief and as a traveling companion. I document my travels with Chewie on my Tom’s Travels YouTube channel. Chewie and I go where the weather tells us.

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