There are few moments in life that have a more profound and far-reaching impact than hearing the words, “You have Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer.” Receiving a diagnosis of inoperable, metastatic Pancreatic Cancer is clearly a life-changing event that has an all-encompassing impact on both patients and their families. We spoke with several patients who are currently battling to save their own lives. Learn how this diagnosis has impacted their lives, and what they do to maintain hope and a positive outlook while undergoing treatments.
Allyson: The diagnosis has affected every aspect of my life- family, friends, work, etc. My family tries to be supportive and they have gone above and beyond anything I could imagine. Some of the people who I considered friends pre-diagnosis have disappeared. I suspect this is because they are unable to deal with the reality of the diagnosis. So far I am still working, but will be losing my job because I can no longer work internationally due to my treatments.
Prior to my diagnosis, I lived a very healthy lifestyle. I ran five miles five days per week. I lifted weights, practiced yoga, ate clean, did not smoke and rarely drank alcohol. I was the picture of health. There are times when I feel angry and somewhat cheated by my diagnosis. Living with the emotional side of things on a daily basis can be difficult if I let myself dwell on it. I am hopeful that “it” will go into remission. I want to be able to resume a somewhat normal life and not be in limbo. Maintaining a hopeful and positive attitude is key.
Becky: I have beaten cancer once already and was so mad that I had to go through it again. I was devastated and scared to death. I felt like there was no future for me and what there was would not be good. For the first time in my life, I felt suicidal. My oncologist put me on an anti-depressant which helped a lot. My family was all scared to death. I felt so sorry for my husband. I think it was worse for him than for me. I did not know if I would live to see our 50th anniversary in September of 2014. I also used to babysit my youngest granddaughter, but I had to give that up.
Even though I am scared and feeling down, I have to keep feeling positive. Mental attitude is the biggest part of beating cancer, I believe. The medical field knows so little about Pancreatic Cancer. You have to be sure that you find doctors who have treated a lot of Pancreatic Cancer patients. Do not settle for one prognosis, especially if they tell you there is nothing they can do!
Paul: After a year, a recurrence was spotted right near my primary tumor. I went back to FOLFIRI every two weeks. Yes, it was a setback, but I have been very optimistic over my journey. I am a realist. I know our days are finite and I try to live in the here and now. It is a work in progress. I have been on a mission and journey for the past 2.5 years. I am starting to look into clinical trials. When the treatment I am currently on is no longer effective, I will keep some options open. I cannot give up yet. I have an amazing wife of 31 years and two beautiful daughters in their 20s. I am surrounded by so much love and I have so much to live for. When I was diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic cancer in August of 2012, I never thought I would be here writing this story. I just hit 55 years of age and I hope, wish, pray and dream that I will be gifted with many more years of life to give and to love.
Bruce: Emotionally, I am extremely strong. My family is very supportive. I also speak to people in support groups who have my type of cancer. I talk to God every day. I am looking forward to becoming a happy member of the 6% club.
Tina: I have good days and bad days. I have the best support group. When I was diagnosed, I was 45 and had only been married for two years. I told my husband, “Look I do not know what is going to happen. If you want to get a divorce, I will understand.” He looked at me and said, “I love you and we are married. I am not going anywhere. You are my wife and we are going to get through this together.” My husband and mom helped me so much and still do. I appreciate them so much. There were times that I got so sick that I wanted to quit treatments, but my family would not let me. I want the caregivers to know that if we patients say anything that makes you feel like you are not doing enough, do not take it to heart. We are scared and we do not know what is going to happen. So please just love us, sit with us and make all of the memories that we can. We love you and appreciate everything you do for us.
George: When I was first diagnosed, I was in shock and then was mildly depressed. That led to anger and the “why me” feeling. Finally, I got to a place of determination to do everything I can to defeat this beast. It is pretty tough dealing with the emotional side of Pancreatic Cancer. It is like a roller coast ride that never stops. On the down days, I try to keep myself busy by reading and doing some of the lighter housework. This keeps my mind off of things and also helps out my wife. There have been some down days where I have just sat down and thought about all of the negative things and had some pretty heavy crying sessions. Due to a lack of energy, I have curtailed almost all of my activities with the exception of church. I truly believe the strength you gain with a strong relationship with whatever Supreme Being you believe in goes a long way in this process.
Throughout this whole journey, my wife has been incredibly understanding. She is always there when I need an extra hug, a hand to hold or just someone to sit with me and watch a good movie. My wife goes through the same things as me, but she has a tendency to keep things bottled up. I think this whole thing has affected my family more than it has me. I am resolved to the fact that I am not going to be around to help them and am handling that fairly well. On the other hand, they have to deal with the thought of me not being around forever, and they still have to go on with life.
For others facing this road, I recommend that they do not spend a bunch of time looking at survival statistics. Remember that each person’s journey is so different. Focusing on the survival statistics can push you into a real downward spiral. Don’t be ashamed of any emotional displays you may have. It is just so much healthier to get them out. Never ever give up, because the cure may be announced any day. A very close friend of mine gave me an old-fashioned looking sign. It has a picture of John Wayne along with a quote: Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway. That is a pretty powerful message and I try to follow it.
Theresa: My diagnosis has affected every aspect of my life. My family has literally become my caregivers. They have been absolutely wonderful and I am forever indebted to them. At first, I was very upset because I felt like how I had dedicated my life to helping others as a nurse and ended up with one of the worst cancer diagnoses out there. I was hurt and in disbelief because, as a young adult, I had not experienced married life or bearing children. I was just really hitting the prime of my career. I would cry some days because I was so upset at how much my life had changed in such a short period of time.
Now I am coping much better. I have decided to not live my life by allowing my diagnosis to control my current and future choices and decisions. I am more focused spiritually. God’s love has strengthened my fight. Also, my family and friends have been so supportive. I would not have come out of the dark place I was in initially if it were not for their unconditional, unwavering love and support. Day-to-day, I pray and meditate, which brings me peace. Also, I have to live. I have decided that If I were to perish because of this cancer, I would like to spend these days happy, doing and attaining everything that I have ever wanted to do. Your thinking frames your attitude. A favorite saying by my partner is “your thoughts are things.” Every time I start down a negative road I remember those profound words and it changes my entire attitude.
I have promise myself to live as happy, fulfilled, enriched and positive as possible. I still have the yearning to help others with their healthcare needs. This has led me back to my ministry of nursing. I feel in helping others, I am receiving therapy. This gives me energy for healing my own body and soul also. I no longer take my days for granted and thank God for continuing to grant me days. In my journey, I have discovered the true meaning of who I am. This period of self-discovery has brought me to new height with my spirituality, with my family and career. So really what seems to be a curse is ultimately my blessing.
Receiving a diagnosis of Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer affects every aspect of a patient’s life. Currently, the treatments available are limited in their effectiveness. People who receive the news that they have Pancreatic Cancer all live with the hope that better treatments and even a cure will be available in the near future. Project Purple is dedicated to helping fund much-needed medical research for a cure. There are many ways to help and get involved. Please follow this link to learn how you can do more to give patients with Pancreatic Cancer hope for a future.