Pancreatic Cancer Fighter Rick Carone

Rick Carone had encountered Pancreatic Cancer already once in his life. His mother had passed away at the age of 50, just two months after having been diagnosed with metastatic Pancreatic Cancer. Still, this young, healthy outdoorsman never expected that he might one day face the same diagnosis. Rick grew up in Cary, Illinois as a gregarious and popular young man who excelled in baseball. In his spare time, he developed a passion for hunting and fishing. Rick attended Ole Miss on a baseball scholarship and went on to play four years of professional baseball for the White Sox. Eventually, Rick parlayed his passion for hunting into a new career when he moved into the realm of outdoor television. He became a field editor/videographer on the show Buck Commander and is currently working on a program called Sheep Shape, which will air in 2015 on the Outdoor channel.

Photo of Rick with a Fannin Sheep, courtesy of Jessica Young
Photo of Rick with a Fannin Sheep, courtesy of Jessica Young

In May of 2013, Rick was preparing to fly to Texas for his daughter’s sweet 16th birthday. He had been experiencing the seemingly unrelated symptoms of itchy skin and diarrhea. He decided to go to an urgent care clinic just prior to his trip. The doctor at the clinic ordered some blood tests. When he reviewed the test results, he urged Rick to seek follow-up care with his regular doctor immediately. Rick did not want to miss his daughter’s birthday party, however, so he took some over the counter medications and flew out to the party.

Rick & his daughters
Rick & his daughters

Rick felt sick all weekend. Immediately after his return flight, he went to the Emergency room. He was subjected to a battery of tests that revealed he had a blocked bile duct. As the doctors were placing a stent in Rick’s bile duct, they detected a mass in his pancreas. At the age of 42, the lifelong athlete and outdoorsman Rick Carone was diagnosed with stage IV Pancratic Cancer. The cancer had already spread to Rick’s liver and kidneys. He was not a candidate for potentially curative surgery.

Rick knew that the statistics for stage IV Pancreatic Cancer were not favorable, but he is a fighter. He began searching for the best medical team he could find. Rick traveled around seeking opinions from the most widely repsected Pancreatic Cancer treatment centers in the country. He and his doctors decided that he would try a chemotherapy combination of Fluorouracil (5FU) and Eloxatin. He started on this protocol every other week, but treatments were eventually spaced out to every third week, and finally to once per month. Rick has experienced side effects ranging from partial blindness to neuropathy to gastrointestinal upset. Now that he is on the once per month chemotherapy treatment plan, Rick feels well 75% of the time. Rick also incorporates complementary therapies such as massage, acupuncture and essential oils into his treatment as a way to help mitigate the effects of the chemotherapy.

Rick has responded so well to his treatments that a team of doctors who met him for the first time could not believe that he was the patient who had been diagnosed with stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. He has had numerous scans over the last few months. Though the size of Rick’s tumors had remained unchanged for months, his most recent testing showed that his primary tumor is shrinking.  While Rick knows that there is currently no cure for his Pancreatic Cancer, he refuses to think of himself as a cancer patient. He knows the goal of his chemotherapy is to keep him comfortable and allow him to live his life. Rick continues to work, spend time with his daughters and remain active through his treatment. He is grateful that his current chemotherapy regimen allows him to feel well for three weeks out of each month.

Throughout his diagnosis and treatment, Rick has maintained a positive outlook. Rick’s Christian faith is the cornerstone of his life. When asked how having Pancreatic Cancer has affected his life, Rick explains that his diagnosis has strengthened both his faith and his friendships. Rick believes that he is here for a purpose. Rick says, “It is an absolutely amazing experience. I am truly living now. I have so much clarity on appreciating the little things in life.” It is clear that Rick is surrounded by an amazingly supportive network of friends and loved ones. When he received his diagnosis, friends rallied around him, quickly forming what came to be known as Team Carone. While Team Carone was founded by a handful of Rick’s friends, he specifically mentions two friends, sisters Dana and Dani Clark. Rick describes how the sisters harnessed their “fire and passion” as they brought the community together and organized a fundraising event on his behalf. Rick was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he received from the community.

Rick is a Pancreatic Cancer fighter who is also part of the Project Purple family. Dino Varelli, founder of Project Purple, attended and delivered a speech at the Team Carone fundraiser. In November of this year, Rick’s friend Ashley Harman ran the New York City Marathon in Rick’s honor as part of the Project Purple team. Rick came to New York for the marathon so that he could provide Ashley  and the other Project Purple runners with encouragement along the course.

Rick giving high fives to Project Purple runners Elli & Dino on the NYCM course.
Rick giving high fives to Project Purple runners Elli & Dino on the NYCM course.
Ashley Harman & Rick Carone after the NYCM
Ashley Harman & Rick Carone after the NYCM

At the post-marathon Project Purple gathering, Rick spoke to the audience about his experiences fighting Pancreatic Cancer. Rick is a living example of someone who is beating the odds every day. When he was first diagnosed, Rick was told he only had a 15% chance of surviving the first year. With the help of his faith, his family, his friends, and his medical team, Rick Carone continues to defy the odds in his courageous and inspirational battle against Pancreatic Cancer. Rick encourages others to join Project Purple in their efforts to raise funds to fight Pancreatic Cancer.

You can follow Team Carone at the link below.

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