I was a 51-year-old first grade teacher when I saw my doctor over holiday break to see why I wasn’t feeling good after eating. It turned out there was a softball-sized tumor on my pancreas, which was putting pressure on my stomach. My doctor touched my abdomen, then asked if I had a free afternoon for a CT scan. I was told the next morning that I needed to get my affairs in order. My husband and I sat with our mouths agape wondering how to prepare our three children (11, 13 and 15). A week later, I was given the news that I had neuroendocrine cancer of the pancreas and that I was eligible for a Whipple procedure and liver resection, and could potentially live for years with this form of cancer. Now seven years later, post-Whipple and liver resection and on my fourth chemotherapy drug, I am alive, traveling, gardening, working a bit and about to see my third child off to college.
As my pancreatic cancer is very different than the common type, the information usually doesn’t apply to my situation. I am inspired by the stories of others, but it can be a bit lonely having this rare diagnosis as it is so misunderstood.
Recently, there was a new treatment approved for pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. This gives me hope that there will be more options available. When one chemotherapy stops working, I will move on to the next. This August, I will become an empty nester, and I am looking forward to fun adventures with my husband and my adult children. I never thought I’d reach this goal.