Survivor Story: Clinical Trial Participant - Gary Carmichael
In September, 2009, after four months of doctor visits, blood tests and finally an endoscopic procedure, we were told that I had a tumor on my pancreas. ï¿½Like so many others, I really did not know much about my pancreas, what its function was, and how it worked with my other body organs. ï¿½But once I learned most people diagnosed with this cancer do not survive longer than 12 months, the doctor had my attention. ï¿½As a career police officer for the past 32 years, death was an issue I have mentally accepted as a very real possibility. ï¿½Death by cancer was not something I had thought about even though members of my family, as well as close friends, have lost their battles with cancer over the past few years. ï¿½My chances for survival hinged on my ability to survive a very hard medical intervention called the Whipple procedure.
After 32 days and 30-plus pounds lost, I was released to go home. ï¿½After a month at home recovering, I was told that I now had to deal with six to seven months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. ï¿½I maxed out on chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but completed both. ï¿½I tell everyone that I cannot choose which is harder on your body, the Whipple surgery or chemotherapy.
After another six months I did recover enough to start an active physical workout routine at my local YMCA. ï¿½I also got strong enough to start riding my motorcycle again, even riding with my portable chemotherapy pack for several months. ï¿½The gym and the cycle helped with both mental and physical growth. ï¿½Finally, I applied to, and joined, a clinical trial for new pancreatic cancer therapies using oneï¿½s own immune system to hinder tumor growth. ï¿½After 16 months of treatments, I have great CT scans and blood tests. ï¿½Now, four years later, I have regained 30 pounds of lost body weight, go to the gym five days each week and have ridden over 35,000 miles on my motorcycle across 40 states. ï¿½Life is short, play hard.
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