My name is Bob Robinson, a 4-year survivor so far. I had been training for a half marathon in November 2008, and I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. I began noticing that something was wrong over Thanksgiving week when my energy levels dropped, combined with a yellow change in my complexion. The following week I was in the emergency room in convulsive pain that I never imagined was possible. After an ERCP pinpointed the exact location of the tumor, my oncologist and surgeon determined that I was a good candidate for a pancreaticoduodenectomy, commonly referred to as a Whipple. It was almost shocking to hear the surgeon tell me that I was lucky in the same breath that he was telling me that I was now battling one of the top 5 cancer-killers in the United States. He said I was lucky because the tumor blocked the pancreatic duct and immediately set off all my internal alarms, so to speak. He said that most of the time, pancreatic cancer isn’t detected until it has spread significantly through the pancreas or metastasized throughout the body (a good reason to raise awareness and advocate for early detection!) The Whipple surgery was successful, and within 6 weeks I was on the beach in Maui with my family on our scheduled time-share vacation. I couldn’t think of a better place for a recovery, and it sure was good to be out of the hospital. I was blessed to able to return to work immediately after our vacation.
My first year wasn’t easy. For those of you who have first-hand experience with a Whipple, you know there are a lot of recovery challenges. My biggest problem was trying to learn what I could and couldn’t eat with my re-configured digestive system, and how to stop the weight loss. I spent a couple months learning lessons the hard way until I reached out to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network for some help. I was pleasantly surprised! They provided me with educational literature, dietary guidelines, and a helpline to connect me with other cancer survivors who also underwent a Whipple procedure. My recovery improved quickly and I was able to resume business and personal travel, and even start exercising again.
Unfortunately, the cancer returned in March 2011 as stage-4 metastatic carcinomatosis. Again, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network provided my wife and me with the latest research data on clinical trial drugs, and worked with us to find the best trial for my type of cancer. I began a clinical trial in May 2011, and the cancer immediately stopped spreading. I’ve been classified as “stable” as I’ve continued treatments since then with the same level of success. As a result of my clinical trial experience, I’ve also stepped up my involvement with the PALS program and I’m now a volunteer with the Clinical Trials Education and Support Program. I’m humbled to be counted among the successful survivors of this deadly disease.
Since I picked up my new lease on life in 2008, I’ve spent the last few years “paying it forward.” I am a Survivor and Caregiver Network volunteer through the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, supporting the Patient and Liaison Services (PALS) program. I consider it a privilege to take those calls from newly diagnosed patients, and do whatever I can to help people who are facing the same insidious disease that I’m fighting. I’ve also had the pleasure of participating in Advocacy Day, and personally met with many of our legislators on Capitol Hill to advocate for the passage of the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, formerly known as the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act (H.R. 733 & S-362).
This survival experience really challenged me in many areas of my life. God gave me and my family the strength and peace that we needed to get through all the physical, mental, and spiritual challenges. The biggest change in my life? I find that I cherish my time with family and friends more than ever before. I’ve had 4 more years of “todays” to be thankful for since my diagnosis. Learn more about clinical trials