The next thought after your doctor shares with you the terrifying news that you have a mass or a tumor your mind goes on defense mode. Or at least that is what happened for me. A defense mechanism seemed to take over. “Surely it is not cancer”. “Can I die?” Maybe you were like me and truly didn’t see this coming. You may never seriously have thought about trying to wrap your mind around those chilling words. You might think it couldn’t happen to me.
It has been four years and four months since my doctor informed me of the mass that had taken residence in the head of my pancreas and slowly over who knows how many years it grew until it was large enough to make it’s presence known. Appointments many specialist, CT scans, blood work, MRI’s, surgeries that lasted nine and a half hours, chemo, radiation, drains, ports, biopsies, more scans and more surgeries, and countless glasses of clear contrast….but, thankfully I am still here and I am feeling very good.
Adenocarcinoma is the deadliest form of pancreas cancer. Unfortunately, pancreas cancer is the one that is clinically and scientifically least understood. In 2018 doctors cannot predict how these cells will act. Yet, the diagnosis of pancreas cancer is up twenty to thirty percent I heard someone say. According to PanCan.org it is scheduled to be the number two cancer killer by 2020 beating out breast cancer for the number three slot in 2017. No longer does the diagnosis appear for the 70 year old smoker typically male. It has joined the other fatal cancers that refuse to discriminate between gender or age or social behavior. What will it take to bring attention to this silent killer that creeps into more and more bodies every day?
Statistics say only nine percent of those diagnosed with pancreas cancer will live five years. Looks like I might make it to April 29th, 2019. But, the cancer is back. This time it has taken residence in my lungs. About eighteen months ago I had one small spot in my lung. Today I have eight. If you count the three that were removed from my left lung late June, that would make eleven. They say I should be able to live at least two more years before the tumors begin to impede my oxygen supply, and I am counting on it.
But, there are options that can POSSIBLY shrink those tumors and most importantly stop more from forming. Chemotherapy could possibly do this for me. But, at what cost? If you read the side effects, they warn of fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, rash and/or yellowing of the skin, possible hair loss, weight loss…
I no longer have thoughts of “Maybe it’s not cancer.” Pathology has proven by my DNA it is in fact return of pancreas cancer. But, I do have hope in a drug that targets cells that grow and divide quickly. Unlike surgery or radiation, this drug is so toxic it also attacks healthy cells, like those of the skin, hair, intestines, and bone marrow. But, it is a drug that could give me more precious moments of time. Time with my family and friends. Time to see my new grand babies and those babies of my children’s best friends. The children I have watched grow into adults right before my eyes. Precious time.
When I visited my oncologist after my scan last week he recommended I consider Capecitabine, a chemo drug in pill form taken twice daily. My Joseph asked would I be able to travel on this drug. “Everyone reacts a little differently to it.” doctor said. “I am strong and tolerated chemo quite well last time.” I jumped in. “Only one time did my blood work require half a dose in the entire six months of my treatment.” “Take home the information and think about it.” Dr. Mody said. I responded….”I will be praying about it.”
Sunday morning Tom, his Father and I sat in a tiny wooden pew at St. Patricks Cathedral in NYC. Cardinal Doolan was the celebrant followed by four priests and several alter servers. Fortunately for us it was the service with music. What sounded like a choir of angels sang from the loft at the rear of the church as the huge organ pulsed its deep bass tones.
I was sure of it…I will begin the chemo this week.I have to take a chance this drug will hold those tumors at bay. I need more time, and I am asking God to grant it, another miracle.
Hearing this, Jesus said to Janius, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Luke 8:50/NIV