Over the summer of 2009, Suzie developed a vague, but increasingly painful abdominal pain that would radiate around to the back. The pain continued to progress until in October, she began to itch all over. On Nov. 11, she went to the doctor to have a complete blood workup. By close of business they called her back for an ultrasound on Nov. 12 and then a CT scan on Nov. 13. She was admitted to the hospital for the first time that evening.
It turns out she had a tumor at the head of her pancreas that had crimped the bile duct and pancreatic duct closed, resulting in a build up of bile salts in her blood, causing the itching. On Nov. 14, they stinted the crimp to relieve the blockage and took a biopsy. On Nov. 17, 2009 the biopsy confirmed malignant adenocarcinoma of the pancreas.
Fortunately, Suzie's tumor was operable. On Dec. 8, 2009, we traveled to Johns Hopkins to prepare for the surgery. The surgery is brutal, and one of the most complicated procedures doctors perform. It is called "The Whipple Procedure," named after its founder. The stomach is severed from the upper intestine completely, and the entire duodenum, about 18", is removed, along with half the pancreas, the bile duct leading from the liver, and the gall bladder. Then, everything is "re-plumbed" so to speak. There really isn't full recovery as the side effects in digestion and the neuropathic pain generally persist. She had her surgery on Dec. 11 and we left Jhop on Dec. 24, making it home for Christmas morning.
At the end of Feb, Suzie began chemo and radiation therapy that would last until Oct. 20, 2010. As far as we know, Suzie is cancer free. Her story is remarkable in that there is not possibility for survival other than surgery with PC. Only 20% are surgical candidates. That is one of the reasons the 5-year survival rate is only 6%. The other stats are just as daunting, with PC accounting for only 3% on new cancer diagnoses, but is the 4th leading cause of death. So, Suzie is a walking miracle!