“We’re not people who sit very much,” said Laurie Weiskopf, wife of PGA Tour Champion Tom Weiskopf. “I make decisions quickly when I have to, but everybody has to deal with it in their own way. But with this disease, you can’t just sit there and not take action.”
When Tom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer late last year, take action is exactly what they did. In November, Tom felt a sharp pain in his stomach, which led to a CT scan at a Montana hospital showing a lesion on his pancreas. On Thanksgiving Day, he and Laurie flew to Miami for a battery of tests, including genetic and biomarker. The diagnosis came back the next Monday and he started chemotherapy December 10.
“It was a wild ride,” said Laurie, “and not one I would wish on anyone. We started chemo before we could even take a breath.”
A pancreatic cancer diagnosis is a formidable event, one made even more challenging when it comes during a pandemic.
“Challenging isn’t even the word for it,” said Laurie. “You’re frightened and not able to be with your loved one and you’re having these life-and-death conversations on the phone during tests and appointments.”
Laurie learned about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) when she received a heartfelt email from Karen Kiernan, a four-year survivor who was able to go on a targeted treatment identified through PanCAN’s Know Your Tumor. Karen reached out to Laurie after reading about Tom’s diagnosis.
Karen shared her story and told her about PanCAN’s support resources for pancreatic cancer patients and their families. Laurie was inspired and heartened by Karen’s story.
“When you don’t know where else to turn or that there is anything or anyone who can steer you in any direction – it was a great help to have PanCAN’s Patient Services,” said Laurie.
Tom and Laurie are now at MD Anderson for further assessment, and both feel tremendously confident in their treatment team.
And, said Laurie, you have to advocate. You have to find your way. You have to know that you’re in the right space and take responsibility for your own care.
Tom described his “proactive, not reactive” approach, talking about what he experienced while on the PGA tour.
“I like to think that I’m a positive person,” said Tom. “I was on tour for 20 years and the guys who usually win are the most positive people. It’s in their attitude, how they look at things. They accept the challenge and know how to take care of the situation. They just expect to win.”
Tom has a gallery of supporters in his fight including Straight Down, a sports apparel company owned by friends of the Weiskopfs. During April, Straight Down is honoring Tom by donating $2 from each order on their website to PanCAN.
Laurie says Tom plans to be back on the golf course this summer and bird hunting with their dog, Spanky, in the fall.
“The easiest thing in the world to do is give up,” said Tom. “You win by staying positive.”