Thinking outside the box – UPDATE

Fourth of July fun at Z-Farm

The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster ride for my family, friends and me. Confirming that the malignant adenocarcinoma had returned to the head of my reconstructed pancreas and having my oncologist tell us without treatment we have just months would send any human being to a deep dark place.

Having survived the absolute most fatal cancer for eight years has truly been a miracle thanks to God, you my prayer warriors, my fantastic medical team of primary care doc, surgeons, radiologists, gastroenterologists, radiologists, oncologists and the PA’s and nurses who assist them at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL.

But, realistically, we always knew there would be a day when the cancer would take over.

For a time we placed our complete trust in a non-approved trial drug Herceptin Hylecta (trastuzumab and hyaluronidase-ovsk) recently used as immunotherapy treatment for early breast cancer in HER2 positive patients, with great success I might add. Tests were run to determine the DNA of my tumor and provide the best possible match for the gene therapy. The prayer was that I might be the first pancreas cancer patient to receive the treatment…and that it would destroy the cells. That was truly our only hope.

When we asked if surgery could be performed to remove the tumor, the answer was no, there has not been success in the past with patients with similar medical situations. So truly our only hope was in the trial drug. So, we began the infusions.

Entering the chemo suites that familiar smell and feeling rushed over me like a bad dream. But, I knew this treatment would be different. My oncologist told me I would not lose my hair, I would not experience nausea but would possibly have a rash. A rash? I could surely handle that. But, it was just returning to this place I had avoided for two years, that sick feeling returned. I was happy to see a familiar face, a nurse who sat with me the entire infusion watching for adverse reaction but more importantly, chatting in light conversation.

As the test reports came in my case was presented by my oncologist to the Thursday tumor board, a group of up to eighteen Mayo docs from different departments. (Get a second opinion? Why when you have eighteen of the finest doctors in the world collaborating over your MRi’s, scans, blood work and pathology reports.)

One of the surgeons attending that day probably said, “Oh this is Judi, I am familiar with her case. She is the one who defies all of the norms with her PC.” But most importantly, he thought he had a solution. He presented his ideas to the board and they all agreed.

Shortly after the meeting my oncologist phoned. His excitement came right thru the phone as he explained what the surgeon was proposing. He told me surgery was being offered to me and to expect a call from Dr. Stauffer.

When Dr. Stauffer called I listened intently to his plan. He began by stating, “Judi, we need to think outside of the box with you.” He explained they would like to surgically remove the tumor, a suspicious lymph node behind the mesenteric artery as well as a lesion that had shown up for years on my liver, but had not grown in size in any of my scans. He said, if you agree to the surgery, I believe it can work.

My reaction was, “What have I got to lose?” He replied, “You have nothing to lose and life to gain.”

I have received two infusions to date and am scheduled for a third in early August. Scans and tests will be reviewed to check results of the infusions and to be used in the open surgery that will be performed August 17th.

Many of you are praying for me and as you have heard me say in the past, I truly believe this is the explanation I have for my survival. God is listening to your payers, and granting them. For this we are eternally grateful. So, again, I am asking for your prayers for the doctors and nurses on my care team to receive what they need to have a successful surgery. Again, not just for me but to make surgery a possibility for other PC warriors with resectable tumors.

Thankful for all of my prayer warriors and thankful for a surgeon who is willing to think outside the box.

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  1. Amazing news. You are blazing a trail that will help not only you, but others. Blessings on this new treatment and surgery. Miracles happen e wry day, and you are a true miracle in every sense of the word. Sending prayers for strength and peace.

  2. Judi, though we have never met, I feel l know you. My kids, Ed & Lisa have mentioned you often and think you are wonderful. I adopted your son Scott & his family years ago. They are such a great addition to our family. With that said, I am so sorry the cancer is back. I applaud you for having the courage to try “out of the box” treatments. You are a strong lady and with your trust in God and prayers, you will get through this. I belong to a prayer group at church. We have approximately 75 members and we will all be praying for you (1st names only), your family & your medical team. I know in my heart – prayer is a powerful tool. Stay strong, stay positive & stay faithful. God Bless you & your family.

  3. Wow what an incredible story and a lifeline for people who need hope and have diseases that they may not survive. This is such a testament to prayer and your incredible belief in God and that he will answer our prayers. You have been in my prayer list and I will pray even harder that all the infusions and surgery will work for you…You have already proven miracles can happen. Michele

  4. Oh sweet Judi, as I read this I was so upset to hear this demon cancer has reared its ugly head again…and as I continued reading I am now so excited for you. Praying that these infusions give these surgeons and nurses all the results they need to positively impact your upcoming surgery!! And as always…your selfless concern that all you’ve endured may help other PC warriors is once again, another testament why I believe God is seeing you through this most difficult journey. I love you dearly and will continue to lift you up in prayer every day of my life on this earth. God bless your sweet soul! 🙏

  5. Girl you are amazing and trusting in all our prayers for you and GOD is smiling down at you for all your faith and gumption!! I love you and my prayers are always with you 🙏🙌

  6. My beautiful Judi, you are always in my prayers. I talk to Our Father often and he assures me that He is with you at all times. Because of your faith in Him and the love for Him. He sees your family, all together for July 4th. Beautiful each one of them. I continue to have faith in Our Lord, for your journey in this life can not be over. I love you and respect you and your courage to overcome. I am forever grateful to know you and the Z family.

  7. Praying. Love that your doctors are thinking outside the box… this is how we make medical advances, defeat cancer and LIVE. You are such a special warrior. Love, Holly Tyrrell

  8. Judi, you’re amazing.I believe you make God smile. Your courage and faith are inspirational. You remain in our prayers as you continue your journey. Thank you for your example of how to face adversity!

  9. As always prays are surrounding you and the best outcome humanly possible. This has been quite a journey, and you are truly a blessing and inspiration. Love continues to rain down on you!!!! Prayers also going out to your stellar medical team!!!

  10. My lovely beautiful and courageous friend. At some point every week I pause to think about you. A beacon of light hope and inspiration for so many. We are so thrilled to hear that they have found a course of action for you. I pray Hashem will grant you more years to stay with your lovey family.
    You are always in our prayers. With much love

  11. My prayers and love are with you. May God continue to bless you, your family and medical team!

  12. Following your journey for years … love Dr Stauffer … continuing to lift prayers for your continued success defying all odds and blazing a new trail.

  13. My the Lord continue to bless my PC warrior mentor and inspiration. Keep her in your grace, provide her body the strength to successfully endure surgery, bless her family during this tribulation, and your healing hands as she continues in this battle. So blessed you came into my life! Will continue to pray, sending love through the miles, and providing daily devotionals for all of you. Your touch, devotion, and passion has impacted so many💜💜💜🙏🏻💪

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