In July of 2012, my world was rocked when my family and I learned that my father, Jim, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My dad has always been the fighter in our family, the bread winner, the voice of reason, the comedian, all of the above. To find out he was given such a grim diagnosis was devastating not only to our family, but to him as well. At the ripe age of 54, no one expects to hear you might not make it to your 55th birthday, that this could be your last Christmas, or that this could be the last few months of your life. To add to the stress, the doctor told us my dad’s cancer had spread to his liver. The doctor explained the severity of this disease to us, so we all knew we had to act quickly.
Since surgery wasn’t an option for my dad, the next best course of action was radiation and chemotherapy. The year prior, my mom went into remission for breast cancer, so we were all familiar with the steps my dad would now have to face, but in a much more serious way. He started his battle with several rounds of radiation. From there, he was put on a not so friendly combination of drugs that was supposed to shrink his tumors and extend his life. After he went through his third cycle of this nasty concoction, we learned that his tumor markers hadn’t dropped, his liver tumors were continuing to spread, and now he had several blood clots from the chemotherapy.
We were absolutely devastated. The blood clots landed him in the hospital for several days, his port had to be removed, and he was on his final straw, until the doctor suggested a second line of chemotherapy that might work better for patients like my dad. We were told, however, that this chemotherapy would be much more extensive and annoying; he’d have to have an eight hour infusion of chemotherapy, and then carry a pump around with him for three days after that. His new chemotherapy combination included four drugs.
What would make most patients sick, made my dad feel much stronger. His nausea decreased, his appetite surfaced again, and his spirits were lifted. We received amazing news after his second CT scan came back, proving his liver tumors shrank in size and that his pancreatic tumor was actually MISSING from the scan. The doctor literally said they couldn’t find the pancreatic tumor anywhere on the scan. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not still there, but it is significantly smaller and much more stable than before. This time we were absolutely thrilled.
This past February, my friends and I drove three hours to Westlake Village, CA to participate in a pancreatic cancer walk in honor of my dad’s current struggle with this icky cancer. Because my dad is doing so well on this second line of chemotherapy, he was able to attend the walk (on the sidelines of course) and give each one of our teammates a high five at the finish line. The experience was awesome, one that I’ll never forget.
My dad is still undergoing treatment and we’re planning on looking into different clinical trials within the coming months. To my family, this disease doesn’t mean terminal anymore. It means hope, not just for my dad, but for other people diagnosed with this disease. When we were at our lowest of lows, we were brought back up because we kept the faith alive.