Survivor Story: Elizabeth Jurcik
Growing up with a gastroenterologist father, I remember the phone calls where he would lock himself up in a room to later come out with tears on his face. The calls where he advised his patients with newly found pancreatic cancer to write a will, travel the world and be around loved ones because soon they'd be passing on. At the age of 31, when my gastroenterologist told me the news, I couldn't help but to see that image in my head. Though, thankfully, I didn't get the normal "write your will" advice - I got the names of phenomenal pancreatic oncology surgeons and was told, "It's early enough; you're going to be fine.”
I had ended up in the emergency room after 24 hours of the worst stomach ache in my life. It turns out I had very acute pancreatitis without any of the normal risk factors associated with it. A CT scan and MRI later, they found a 2 cm mass growing in my pancreas and causing a kink in my pancreatic duct, which had caused me to get sick. After a biopsy, the consensus was that I'd be fine if it was removed right away; I'm going to live to see my 40th birthday. So, I'm missing over half my pancreas now and my spleen was an innocent victim. I've got a second chance!
Every day I think - "WOW. AM I LUCKY OR WHAT?!?!” I'm part of that 6% - the lucky ones who find out early enough to be an exception. More people deserve to get the phone call I did - one full of hope and a plan. The time is now to better understand the risk factors, early detection, and prevention. One day, and I hope within my lifetime, my prognosis will be the norm.
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