The Story of Tom, Mindy & the Pancreatic Tumor Part I: The Diagnosis & Pancreatic Cancer

Mindy: Tom and I were blessed to find love again, meeting each other as mature adults. And in our first year of loving and celebrating life, we got a shocking diagnosis that Tom had Stage ll Pancreatic Cancer. His Doctor was telling him ‘that he was so very sorry’ and our honeymoon period of new love crashed into the new reality of dealing with cancer. After much research and soul searching, Tom decided that he would go through the Whipple procedure surgery to remove the tumor.

Tom: When I was diagnosed with a tumor on my Pancreas in December of 2013, I knew in my heart that I would survive the ordeal physically. I did not think then that surviving it physically would become a threat to my financial health, but that is what has happened. I discovered at the end of 2014 after I had spent nearly $14,000 on holistic healthcare treatments, that NONE of those expenses would be covered by Medicare or my Medicare Supplement insurance. It is highly unlikely that I could have gone without that support and be as physically healthy as I am today.

I was very fortunate that my tumor was caught at an early stage while it was still operable. Deciding where to have the surgery was not easy. The first place we explored was the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. When we met with the surgeons there to discuss the procedure, they were not very forthcoming with answers to our questions.

This led us to seek a second opinion. We spoke with the head of outreach at the Colangiocarcinoma Foundation (At that time the tumor appeared to be on the Common Bile duct.) She gave us the name of an oncologist at the University of Southern California (USC). We made a trip to California and spoke with him and met Dr. Yuri Genyk, the head of transplant surgery there. We were impressed with his willingness to give us in-depth answers to all of our questions, and at that first meeting we decided that he would be our surgeon.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the more deadly forms of Cancer. The five year survival rate for all patients is only 6%. I was fortunate that mine was discovered early enough that I could have surgery. A 2003 study reported in the Annals of Surgery found that pancreatic cancer patients over the age of 65 who had surgery to remove their tumors had a 3-year survival rate of 35%. And for patients who had their surgery in a teaching hospital (mine was at the Keck Hospital at USC) or had Chemotherapy that rate went up to 41%.

It is now 20 months since my surgery – the mean survival time in this study. I am by no means out of the woods. It is critical that I continue these holistic healthcare treatments to prevent metastasis and to keep my immune system strong.

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