My Fight with Cancer Part 1

I have been recently asked to share my experiences during the past year in my fight with pancreatic cancer and I must say first off that although I have had experience as a care giver to my mother who died of lung cancer I had no idea at all how to deal with what would be my own battle for life. When I was diagnosed I had been in the hospital for several days waiting for an answer to that big question of "what is that on the CT scan?" I must say that in my heart of hearts I knew that it would be cancer as it not only took my mother in 99' but my sister as well in 98'. My first concern of course was that of my daughter and my grandson but they have lives of their own and as she pointed out I must first take care of myself before I can care for someone else (oh how true).

The oncologist assigned to my case was a man that has an outstanding reputation in the circles of oncology and the surgeon that he brought in was the best in the state so I was well taken care of and was ready to listen to what would become my life's course for however long it lasted. A computer was wheeled into my room and my doctor, Dr. Issam Makhoul began to explain to me just what was taking place inside my body and what we could do about it. I was diagnosed with a common form of pancreatic cancer but what had taken place was that the tumor instead of being at the head of the pancreas was towards the tail and it had begun to wrap itself around various arteries and such that would indicate that surgery was NOT an option for me at the time. It was Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and it is considered terminal in 94% of all known cases, so I can say with all honesty that I was not really happy with this at all. I will never forget Dr. Makhoul's next words to me no matter how long I survive this difficulty, "what we are going to talk about today is going to change your entire life forever." Well in all ways possible his words have been true and I have gone through nothing but change since the day I walked out of UAMS and returned to me life as it was.

In my case surgery is not possible due to the growth of the tumor and it's encasement of my main arteries and if it were attempted it would cause my death by simply bleeding to death due to complications. I was told that chemo and radiation were my only choices and that it "might" shrink the tumor allowing for surgical removal in time if my body reacted to the treatment in a positive manner. So I at once set out to beat this invader by doing all that was recommended in my case. I went through 15 radiation treatments and a round of chemo that included my carrying an infusion pump around for 2 weeks. Well after 6 weeks of treatment and waiting we found that along with the side effects (I was terribly sick) the tumor had grown one full inch in diameter. Ok, I thought, this is great so what next? Well we took a 2 week break, circled the wagons and came up with a new plan that we hoped would make some kind of difference. I was taken off of the radiation treatments and was given a chemo cocktail made up of three different drugs which again included the infusion pump so away we went with the new process!!!! I was sick for over three weeks and there was no answer to this but after a new CT scan it showed that we had halted the growth of the tumor, my blood work came back fine so maybe, just maybe we had found the answer......

During these first few months of treatment for cancer I was told over and over by people that had come into my life that my oncology nurse would become my best friend and that I should depend on said nurse for all of the answers needed during my treatment for cancer. Well I for one agree and the importance of this should never be over shadowed by anything else. She is indeed your first line of communication in ALL matters pertaining to your treatment and to your life, or how you will be able to live it. For me, it was time for a major change because my nurse, Michele and I could not get along. The way I see it, I am in control of how my case should be handled and what meds I am willing to pump into my body no matter the opinions of anyone else. Michele could not see this so we had to part ways. Now I must say that Dr. Makhoul did try to accommodate me and I will be forever grateful but the problems between Michele and I grew to a personal level and had to be put to rest. I am now with Dr. Thomas Sneed at Arkansas Oncology and I could not be happier. The staff here does their very best to make sure that I am comfortable in everything, from decision making, to my meds, and to any care that I need at any stage of my treatment. It takes a bit longer to do the chemo sessions here but it is more than worth it. My last session lasted for 3 1/2 hours and I was not only fine with it but was a bit aggravated that it was time to go as I was watching a movie on my iPhone

Tomorrow I will share how the cancer has affected my personal life and how I have fared with it but most of all, before I go on with anything I have to say these few things.....

If you ever have to deal with cancer or any other life changing medical issues make sure you are comfortable with the people who are treating you. You must have the utmost trust and confidence in them and you must think clearly about your future and how it affects everyone around you. Things may well never be the same for me but they can be better and that my friends, is a lesson well learned.

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