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Survivor Story: Clinical Trial Participant - Robert Breyer

01/19/2012
My own story seems like it was so long ago when it reality it isn’t; I share it in hopes that someone will find some kind of inspiration from my experience. I am extremely lucky that my body decided to have a pancreatitis attack, which brought me to the ER. After about a month of tests, CT scans and several biopsies, I was finally diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma stage 1A on April 20th, 2011. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts that will never be forgotten. The mere fact that there is only a 6% survival rate attests to the pure fear that is embedded into your head after your diagnosis.

And it does not help when you see the statistics and stories of others and their loved ones whom have battled this silent killer when reading the Internet. My first thought was to find the best place for care, so I traveled to a cancer center in Minnesota.  They scared the daylights out of me and told me I needed surgery as soon as possible.  I didn’t react or hesitate, and went with my gut feeling. I wasn’t going to allow fear to drive these huge decisions that I had to make. I had also submitted my information to three other cancer centers, in Maryland, New York and Houston. All said I was a candidate. I was lucky that the New York center called me back (being that I live in Manhattan) and set up an appointment with two of the greatest doctors I have ever met!  I joined a clinical trial in which I began chemotherapy treatments to reduce the size of the tumor. The symptoms were crazy from one of the chemotherapies; I had to be careful with frozen and/or cold surfaces as they made my skin feel like it was burning. The chemo reduced the size of the tumor - YEAH!

My surgery to remove the tumor was scheduled for the beginning of July. I joined another trial to help reduce the amount of fluid produced by my body during and after the surgery. Luckily, the surgery was successful. I attribute it to the shot. The first day after my surgery, when they made me walk the floor, I thought to myself how do people do this? Recovery was slow and painful. But, I am grateful that I had the will to push through it. In August, I began my second round of chemotherapy which lasted 5 months. I felt really nauseous and tired. All in all, I was lucky that the nausea and tiredness was all I experienced. My last chemo was pushed to the New Year due to my low blood counts. I know how blessed I am to be writing this as I am one of the 6%. I know that others are not as fortunate as I have been.

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