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I was only 55 when I first noticed that something was "just not right" with my body. I first started noticing fatigue but chalked it up to the stress of the long commute I needed to take to work. Soon after, my urine turned a dark color and I started experiencing gastritis when eating. It was time to see my doctor.
Dr. Goldin took my vitals and did a urinalysis which showed everything within normal range, but by the end of the week, I noticed the whites of my eyes looked yellow and my skin appeared jaundiced as well. Dr. Goldin acted swiftly to get me an appointment for an ultrasound, which also returned negative results, but he then referred me to Dr. Turner, a hepatobiliary surgeon.
Dr. Turner performed an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) which revealed a blockage in my biliary duct. A stent was inserted which allowed the bile to drain, but because the blockage was due to a mass in my pancreas, Whipple surgery was scheduled immediately: the diagnosis was stage II pancreatic cancer, a very aggressive type of tumor.
The surgery revealed that the tumor was projecting onto the hepatic artery and vein which added 4 hours to an already lengthy surgery. Two months after the surgery I started chemotherapy, but after 12 sessions the results were not encouraging – I now had stage IV cancer.
I was immediately switched to a more aggressive treatment and after 12 more cycles, a CT showed there was significant shrinkage in the tumors.
My family has a history of breast and colon cancer so I had my genome read and discovered I was positive for the BRCA-2 gene deletion. Dr. Steven Lipkin, a geneticist, informed me of a new class of drugs that showed promise in helping with this condition. Searching the internet, I found a clinical trial that was testing PARP-1 inhibitors, and thankfully I met the criteria and was accepted into the trial. I showed a positive response to the treatment, and continue to take the drug to this day.
Eight years later, I remain stable. My tumors have decreased in size, and there are no signs of the disease spreading. I have become passionate about supporting others diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, "We all have a purpose. I got my diagnosis and could have said, 'This is it for me.' But I didn't."
For the past three years, I have met with members of Congress to advocate for an increase in federal research funding as part of the National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day and continue to raise my voice for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.