Category Archives: Treatment for PC.

“Trouble, trouble, trouble….Sometimes I swear it feels like this worry is my only friend”

“Trouble, trouble, trouble….Sometimes I swear it feels like this worry is my only friend”
ServPro So Jacksonville and Arlington golf event to benefit Champions for Hope

ServPro So Jacksonville and Arlington golf event to benefit Champions for Hope

Apprehension is building to the date of that dreaded scan.The March and June scans revealed spots on my lungs that my oncologist, Dr. Johnson said the chance of a reoccurrence of my pancreatic cancer could be 3 or 4 on a scale of 1-10.

With my husband out of town our daughter Lindsay and her baby boys joined me the entire day at Mayo in June as I checked off my schedule of appointments. 8AM blood work on the chemotherapy floor, because they know how to access my port without pain. 12:30 drink the contrast liquid down about 1/2 an hour before the 5 minute CT scan. Then afternoon appointments, allowing for the radiology department to read the scans and write their findings then meeting with my oncologist who will review the labs and CT scan report and give us the results. Then another appointment with my Radiology-oncologist for his take on the reports. They attempt to schedule both docs appointments back to back so there is no waiting for that thumbs up from everyone and we can get on with our lives, at least for three more months anyway.

That is how we live our lives in this family, at three month intervals.

According to the doctor those 3 or 4 or more “lit up” nodules grew in size from March to June, but remained under 1cm and too small to go thru the pain of collapsing my lung to biopsy them. I had a case of pneumonia early in spring. Could that have had anything to do with this I asked? My radiology oncologist was more positive than the oncologist. He said it could be lung cancer, which would be better for me than a metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Lindsay quipped on the way home in the car, “Here we are praying it is lung cancer. Something just seems wrong about that.”

Jaguars "Meet me on the 50"  night.

Jaguars “Meet me on the 50” night.

My amazing husband planned fun trips for us during the three months. One week in Cleveland to visit family and catch the Cavs’ Championship ring ceremony. That turned in to game two of the World Series with the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs. What at week. Then we had baby showers and Jacksonville Jags games and of course my work with both foundations. They would keep me as busy as possible so I could not have time to think about the grey cloud that was hovering just above me.

The LAND.....Cleveland ROCKS

The LAND…..Cleveland ROCKS

Purple Stride – Jacksonville Beach….

The D'Errico's turn out in full support of Jude's Dude's Purple Stride 2016

The D’Errico’s turn out in full support of Jude’s Dude’s Purple Stride 2016

Oh, and then hurricane Matthew and an evacuation!

Hurricane Matthew - evacuation to Poppas warehouse. 12 adults and 9 dogs....fun fun fun

Hurricane Matthew – evacuation to Poppas warehouse. 12 adults and 9 dogs….fun fun fun

Not much time to think about possibilities. There is no reason to worry, God is in control. I know that He has much work for me to do. I believe He has given me this time to help others with raising awareness of this lethal cancer that tries to steal life, laughter and love from it’s next target. But, not today PC. Today I am thankful for my cancer. We have a new outlook on everything thanks to this diagnosis, surgery and treatment. Our family has grown closer, we hug friends a little tighter, we look at the world thru our God eyes recognizing His “winks” along the way. And, we see His hand in preparing us for this time going back years to careers, friendships and moves. He had a plan all along. And, we have no idea when that plan will end, not one of us. So, I am grateful for each day, each person in my life and each breath. I hope when I am face to face with Him, I can look directly into those gentle eyes and say, “I did my best.”

A battle and a blessing

A battle and a blessing
Mayo Clinic Jacksonville - March 28th, 2016 Hernia repair Surgery Dr. Asbun

Mayo Clinic Jacksonville – March 28th, 2016 Hernia repair Surgery Dr. Asbun

Am I battling for my life? Is the enemy surrounding me and do I have weapons that I raise to fight?

This week I read an article written by Kate Granger who has cancer who claimed cancer is not a fight. She said, in her view “the cancer seems to revolve around wartime rhetoric: battle, fight, warrior, beat.” She found these words uncomfortable and frustrating to hear.

“I would like to be remembered for the positive impact I have made on the world, for fun times and for my relationships with others, not as a loser. When I do die, I will have defied the prognosis for my type of cancer and achieved a great deal with my life. I do not want to feel a failure about something beyond my control. I refuse to believe my death will be because I didn’t battle hard enough.”, she wrote.

Please don’t think I challenge her personal opinion. In fact, I found it to be an interesting point of view. It got me to do some serious thinking about my perspective. Would I be offended if someone uttered “she lost her brave fight” once that I have passed on?

Not at all.

Another writer, Rebecca Hamilton wrote she felt “like someone who has wintered over at the South Pole and is now peeking from behind doors at the newcomers who’ve arrived with the sun….I been fighting for my life, just as surely as any gladiator in an arena, any soldier in battle. I have been, like they are, on strange soil, someone else’s territory, guarding my back as well as my front as I sought purchase on the shaky ground under my feet, as I fought to find the way out of the nightmare.”

Rebecca resented the word “survivor” at first. “After all, no one “survives” cancer, at least not with surety. It can come back at any time and when it does, chances are that it will come back meaner and more advanced than the last time we saw it.”

Now she understands the word survivor differently.”I feel like a survivor, but of a decidedly unheroic, uncertain and battered sort. I am not the heroine, striding over the top of a hill to claim my victory crown. I am rather a shipwreck victim, washed up on a beach, half conscious and too exhausted to lift her face out of the sand.”

I felt that was a perfect analogy. I could relate to that person lying weak on the sandy beach after washing ashore. Fighting to stay atop the water, treading till I feared I would give up. That is what it feels like to endure surgery, infections, drains, chemotherapy and radiation. Yet, I made it to shore. I didn’t give up. I didn’t succumb to the waves or the cold or the uncertainty of my fate.

I won that battle. I am victorious. But it is only temporary.

I lift my mug each morning and take a sip of my creamy hot joe watching the sun rise. Assessing how I am feeling, I think to myself as Rebecca thinks….”Today I feel good….Today is not the day I am going to die.” I have TODAY.

Surviving with strong faith has been my victory. Will I win the battle over cancer? Statistically not. Regardless of where the cancer moves next my death certificate will read…”Cause of Death…Pancreatic Cancer.” But, I will fight a good fight. I will battle forward.

Everyday I am blessed to live I will pray for God to grace me with time to see my children and my grandchildren thrive.

” The same cancer ordeal that has ravaged your body can put you in a place so close to God that you can feel His presence every moment….You can feel the everlasting arms around you and know that you are loved, cherished and protected there forever.” says Rebecca. (Oh is she ever right about that.) “You don’t have to do anything except trust. Just let God love you through this and you will wash up on that shore, battered and ravaged physically, but stronger than you have ever been spiritually.”

I pray people will remember how they saw Jesus thru me. He surely lives in me. I am so thankful for the faith that brings me through this battle. There are so many that do not believe and I cannot imagine how they must suffer. I might not win the battle with cancer….but I have deepened my faith and the faith of my family and those close to me. For that I am thankful.

Cancer is a battle but more importantly it has turned out to be a blessing.

Will I be here for……

Will I be here for……
Jude's Main Dude

Jude’s Main Dude

The local greeting card store was not busy as I entered. It was time to buy some cards for the late fall birthdays approaching. The owner, recognizing me as a frequent customer, smiled at me and said “hello”. I nodded and kept walking toward the birthday section.

Should I buy just one card for my daughter and my sons? Or, should I buy several, sign them and put them away? I could tell them what I would want them to know, some tidbit of wisdom I had gathered from years of experience fitting for that time of life. This seemed like a great idea…until I started to read the cards.

After choosing a beautiful card for my daughter, I began to read the text, my eyes filled up with tears. This was going to be far more difficult than I had expected. The idea was loosing its appeal.

Suddenly, the store manager was approaching asking if she could help me find what I was looking for. She noticed my tears and sweetly asked if I was okay.

I had been strong for so long in front of my family and friends about this cancer thing. Suddenly the flood gates had opened and this poor lady stood before me.

One of the reasons I loved this store was because the owner and most of the sales ladies were Christians. They were so loving and kind and always sure to say “have a blessed day” as you left.

I figured the owner deserved some sort of explanation. I certainly couldn’t lie. So, out it came. “I am battling pancreatic cancer and I am not sure how long I will be around, so I was thinking of buying cards, signing them and putting them away.” Like and angel sent from God, she wrapped her arms around me and cried softly with me.

Then she began to pray over me. It was so comforting. We stood there in the birthday aisle for several minutes, until I had collected myself. I told her this might not be the right time to do this. She agreed. “Give it some more thought and you will know when you are ready.”

18 months have passed since my diagnosis, surgery, treatment, and 4 clear CT scans. I am currently cancer free. The PC statistics are not in my favor, but, I am feeling great and positive about the near future.

One thing I do know for certain, I am thankful I trust a God who loves me and protects me and sends His angels to hold me up when I need it, even a clerk in the greeting card store.

One month out from treatment.

One month out from treatment.

FullSizeRender

It has been one full month since toxic chemotherapy was injected into my ‘whipple body”. (That’s what I call my body post surgery May 12th, 2014.) I still feel the effects of it. When I look at a date, my mind goes not automatically jump to the sense of time to or from the date. I can barely put this week together. I feel my strength slowly coming back. My desire to prepare a special gnocchi from scratch along with my simple marinara showed me I am on my way back to normalcy…well, a normalcy that includes a medical history of pancreatic cancer. No….normalcy is not a word I will use to describe life as it is now.

When I came home from the hospital during my infection time, I had lost around 35 pounds. Lindsay and her friend Samantha had me put on a fashion show. Everything that looked frumpy went into the donate bag. We all have those clothes back in the rear of the closet we believe we will one day fit back into. Some of them stayed in the front of the closet and some were even too big. It was a really fun day as weak as I was. And I felt good cleaning out the closet. They say with the Whipple Surgery, you probably will not return to your previous weight. Having been a bit on the heavy side, I was thankful for that. Isn’t it interesting to think it could be a good thing to have a few extra pounds on when cancer hits you?

As far as my appetite, it has not returned. Food tastes ok. Nothing really give me a craving. I eat three meals a day most times and I even had a glass of wine for the first time in 8 months. It tasted ok. Before meals I take medications to help my digestion – Creon to replace the work my full sized pancreas did producing the enzymes to digest the food. Reglan for nausea, Ativan for nausea, and Anti-Diarreal and an acid controller for reflux. The pills work, I can eat most anything and have a pill for anything that might come up….haha…or down, as the case may be. It is not easy, but I am alive and I am doing far better than most of those I read about on the Facebook Whipple Survivors Page.

If you have had Whipple Surgery I strongly suggest you check it out. It is a great way to get support and some questions answered. I must warn you though…..don’t second guess your qualified physician. If you don’t feel you agree with your physician, find a new one.

So, as it seems to me, I am doing GREAT! I drove the car for the first time last week. It was strange, but made me feel good. I am looking forward to restorative Yoga and even some tread-milling soon. Next scan is in March.
Keep the prayers coming. They certainly are working. And, thank you for your love and support.

Thank you to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Treatment Plan

Treatment Plan

Crossing the finish line…

Crossing the finish line…

Final Chemo 12/24/14

Final Chemo 12/24/14


December 24th, 2014 at 12:30PM I stepped out of the chemo chair with the help of my husband, whom I lovingly call “Joseph”(as in Mary and Joseph), his real name is Tom, with a huge smile on my face. The chemo nurse handed me a “Certificate of Completion” signed by the entire floor of nurses. I had made it to the end of my treatment protocol.The protocol included one month of Gemzar chemotherapy one month of Radiation and 5FU,a form of chemotherapy administered by a pump continuously, one month off, twelve treatments of Gemzar over four months. After seven months I was officially done with my treatment for pancreatic cancer.

It was Christmas Eve and we had planned to meet the family at our annual gathering spot in front of the huge decorated Christmas tree at our club. I had four hours of medication that would get me thru the celebration with little or no nausea.

We all gathered in front of the huge fireplace on sofas and chairs and Tom ordered up room service of flatbreads and chicken fingers and everyone of age had a Christmas cocktail. Two of my dearest friends joined us with flowers in hand. My children and grand children were all in attendance. It was beautiful.

My dear friends, Lisa and Michele joined us at the PVIC  to celebrate the completion of my treatment on Christmas Eve.

My dear friends, Lisa and Michele joined us at the PVIC to celebrate the completion of my treatment on Christmas Eve.

It was a strange Christmas Eve. Normally we would be holding our open house with as many as 150 people celebrating the birth of baby Jesus. But, not this year. I knew by 5PM I would be yearning for my comfy bed. Tom would be home with me while the rest of the family attended Christmas parities with family and friends.

And, that is exactly what happened. I needed to get thru the next twenty four hours as best I could.

Christmas morning Tom was up bright and early preparing my Christmas blend coffee and sorting out the mountain of presents into separate piles on the sofa so when the kids arrived they could dig right in opening gifts.

Lindsay had prepared our traditional breakfast casserole and placed it in the preheated oven as soon as she came thru the door. In about half an hour it wold smell like Christmas……..”woodsey” smoke from the fireplace, tasty cinnamon coffee brewing from the pot and fluffy eggs and sausage baking in the oven. YUM! (Well, maybe not yum for me….but I would not have had it any other way.) Traditions are very important to me. This year was baby Jude’s first Christmas. He needed to have all the sensations even though he is only 7 months old.

His pile of gifts matched Christmases of years past for all of the children. He is a loved little angel and we would make sure he knew it, as well as his parents.

What would next Christmas be like? That is the problem with cancer. It never leaves your mind. It is always lurking in the shadows. But, you know, it has helped me to realize the importance of each minute of each day, of each celebration, each tradition. I am not afraid because I know I am going to meet my sweet Jesus in heaven. I do worry about those left behind. But, our time on earth is like the blink of an eye. It is comforting to know we will be together for all of eternity.

Everyone is in the race and everyone will cross the finish line sooner or later.

Turn the NFL PURPLE in November for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

Turn the NFL PURPLE in November for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

Know it...Fight it...END IT!

Know it…Fight it…END IT!


November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and we need to get out there and get this cancer the attention it demands.

Did you know that the American Cancer Society says that in 5 years PC will be the number one cancer killer? Yet, PC receives the least amount of research funding of all cancers.

The reason this is so is the sadly horrific survivor rates with this deadly disease. Only 6% of those diagnosed with PC will survive 5 years! Only 14% will survive 1 year from diagnosis.

We have an opportunity to reach millions thru the NFL. Won’t you please sign the petition at the link below to help us kick some serious PC butt.

It might not save my life, but it might save someone in our family or some of our friends.

Thank you for taking just a minute of your time to support this worthy cause.

https://www.change.org/p/national-football-league-sponsors-turn-the-nfl-purple-in-november-for-pancreatic-cancer-awareness-month. utm_campaign=friend_inviter_chat&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=permissions_dialog_false&share_id=yKxXJhYGUk
10609404_10101008871889692_1817882697479997442_n

The Infection…

The Infection…

“Less than three percent of patients undergoing Whipple surgery contract infection.” said our surgeon, Dr. Asbun.

Just seven days after discharge from a six day Whipple surgery recovery stay, I was rushed to the Mayo ER with a 101 temperature and general overall feeling of lethargy. The drain, placed in my side to remove excess bile that collected post surgery was filling with a different looking substance. I was admitted and a CT Scan was ordered for the morning. The scan revealed three areas of abscess, one quite large where the original drain was located. The surgical team agreed I would need one more JP drain with the hope the third smaller abscess would respond to the massive doses of IV antibiotics I would be given.

Dr. Brumble, Infectious Disease

Dr. Brumble, Infectious Disease

The protocol, determined by my infectious disease doc…Lisa Brumble, began. Serious antibiotics: Caspofungin, Ceftriaxone and Vancomycin were administered intravenously twice daily, Metronidazole (Flagyl) given orally once daily. Daily visits from my surgical team, nutritionist, physical therapists, and infectious disease doctor were glimpses of the seriousness of my condition. I remained hospitalized for 12 days then discharged to a home healthcare agency for 19 more days of twice daily visits to administer the hour long infusions, flush the drains and take my vitals.

To say I was weak would be an understatement. I was recovering from a 9 and 1/2 hour major resection of my digestive system, and now my body was fighting off critical infection. I had no appetite and the antibiotics made the taste of food even worse. My weight was plummeting.

Every night my sweet husband Tom, would sleep in the recliner next to my bed in the hospital. Many times he prayed out loud holding my hand, asking God to bring us through this. His comic relief was always welcome and normally produced a big smile. I wondered if I could love this man any more…and then I did. He encouraged me to eat and walk the hospital halls to give me strength. He was truly my “Joseph”.

Daily visits from our church priest, deacons and nuns could be counted on. Even the Priest from St. Paul’s visited when he could. They administered the sacrament of holy communion, breaking the host into the smallest piece to be sure I didn’t have a problem digesting it. They prayed over me and told me about my CHRP sisters who were always asking and praying for me. They encouraged my faith and assured me I was in God’s hands.

My closest friends visited daily bringing me flowers, rubbing my hands and feet with creams and enticing me with milk shakes and thoughtful non-fat meals that took huge effort to shop for, prepare and deliver. I truly felt God’s love for me in their tender and genuine care for me.

My dear friend Lynda Masulli lovingly prepared and delivered meals that adhered to my strict diet.

My dear friend Lynda Masulli lovingly prepared and delivered meals that adhered to my strict diet.

The final day in the hospital was an especially difficult one for me. It marked the one year anniversary of the death of my sweet friend, JT Townsend. Carmen, JT’s Mother, stayed with me the majority of the day until I was discharged. We talked about her son and what an amazing man he was. She reminded me JT was up in heaven as my intercessor, making certain I got everything I needed. We clung to one another as we recalled our favorite memories.

By June 24th, the antibiotics had done their work and a CT scan and blood work revealed the infections had diminished. I would be taken off the meds and could resume a more normal schedule. Tom had a brilliant idea. He would take me to Hilton Head Health for a ten day get away. The Docs agreed it would be a great RX! And we were off……..

My hero.....Tommy Z aka, JOSEPH

My hero…..Tommy Z aka, JOSEPH

Home at last....

Home at last….