In September of 2009, at the age of 60, a stone lodged in my kidney prompted a painful trip to the ER where they did a CT scan. The doctor said, "You do have a large kidney stone but there is something else going on in there.” I didn’t know at the time how that "something else" would change my life. The next month I underwent a seven hour operation to remove a baseball sized pancreatic neuroendocrine cancerous tumor, 40 percent of my pancreas, spleen, and twenty lymph nodes. The cancer had spread to eight of the lymph nodes.
Less than five percent of all pancreatic tumors are the rare neuroendocrine type. They tend to grow slower than the more common exocrine tumors. When you are diagnosed with a serious disease, you stop thinking in terms of tomorrows. Like others in this situation, I offered deals to the Lord on how I would start going to church and help my fellow man, like he never heard that before. I begged for one more summer.
Thankfully I’m approaching my fifth summer as a survivor, and keeping the promise I made. Vicki, my wife/caregiver, and I fight back against this terrible disease by volunteering for cancer related organizations. Now I get a CT scan and blood work every year and my doctor comes back with the guarded "I don’t see anything.” I was fortunate the kidney stone lead to the tumor discovery and that I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation. It’s weird, but like some other long-term survivors I sometimes feel survivor’s guilt. I try to focus that negative into the positive energy of working against all cancers.
Advice? Trust your medical team, have some sort of Faith and treasure every day. We are proud members of The 59th Street Bridge Brigade with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network-Pittsburgh Affiliate.