Editor’s note: We are deeply saddened to share that Adam Deal died of pancreatic cancer in December 2020. His advocacy and support of PanCAN and the pancreatic cancer community have been an inspiration to so many people. We’ll never stop fighting on his behalf.
Life is better now.
Before Adam Deal, 35, was told he had between two and 12 months left to live – if he was lucky – work and the day-to-day grind were always on his mind.
Today the accountant’s focus is solely on family and making memories that will live forever, especially for his young sons.
“I’m clearer now than ever on what really matters in life,” he said.
In October 2017, the stage IV pancreatic cancer diagnosis came out of nowhere. Or so it seemed.
Sure, Deal remembers being exhausted, but he and his wife were raising – and constantly chasing – two little boys they had recently adopted. Playing football, playing in the yard, playing games. And yes, he was losing weight, but stress and running around can do that to a new dad.
“I was able to explain away what I now know to be among the symptoms of pancreatic cancer,” he said. “Plus, I’ve always been an active person with no health issues, and there’s no history of cancer in my family.”
A sign that could not be ignored was when Deal tried on a tuxedo that he had been fitted for just two weeks earlier. It was huge (by the time Deal was diagnosed, he had lost 40 pounds in less than three months).
At first, his gallbladder was pinpointed as the potential problem.
But Deal’s father, a physician, arranged an ultrasound and CT scan, and just days after his 33rd birthday, told him that tumors had been found on his liver and pancreas.
“It tore us apart,” Deal said. “We were in shock, we were terrified, and we were angry, especially after seeing the statistics. We didn’t know what to do.”
Images of his wife and children living without a husband and father wouldn’t go away.
The Deals had adopted Shai and Abel out of the foster care system when they were 3 years old and 18 months old.
Collectively, the children had lived in eight homes since they were born.
Deal’s wife, Amanda, urged him to think differently. “You can’t give up,” she told him. “You have to push through and be here for them.”
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…you make me happy when skies are gray…”
The Deals had sung this popular tune to their children every night – they might not have sounded great, Deal admitted, smiling, but the boys loved it.
Not long after the devastating diagnosis, Deal was helping one of the boys get dressed.
“He looked at me, put his arm around me, and started singing that song to me,” Deal said.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…please don’t take my sunshine away.”
“At that moment, I thought, ‘I have to do whatever I can to make it – for him and for my family.’”
Today, Deal is feeling well, and his tumors have been responding to a targeted therapy that he’s been on since March 2019. The therapy aligns with his tumor biology.
He is a proponent of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s (PanCAN’s) Patient Services for patients and families, which provides free, personalized information on treatment options, including clinical trials, in addition to caring support and valuable resources.
Amanda found PanCAN’s caregiver support to be helpful, too, and reading the stories of people who are surviving pancreatic cancer was a gift to them both, she said.
“We got valuable information no one else had given us, but the No. 1 thing that helped me was reading the survivor stories – I can’t explain how much hope it gave me.
“I know we’re going to retire together and grow old together.”
In appreciation of PanCAN’s support, and to contribute to its patient services and research, the Deals are monthly donors.
“Everyone deserves to live their life, chase their kids, make memories with their family,” Deal said. “Without PanCAN, I wouldn’t have the hope that I do now.
“Maybe my donations – and my story – will give that hope to others.”
Any treatments, including clinical trials, mentioned in this story may not be appropriate or available for all patients. Doctors take many things into account when prescribing treatments including the stage and type of cancer and the overall health of the patient. Contact PanCAN Patient Services for free, personalized treatment options.