Ken, a pancreatic cancer survivor

After 63 years of no personal health issues (broken bones, stays in the hospital, etc.) and riding all over the country side on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with no helmet, I considered myself to be somewhat untouchable. Then I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years ago, and everything changed.

About seven or so years ago, I started losing weight and finding myself hitting my head quite frequently. I was constantly nagged to see a doctor, but hey, I am invincible, I was never sick and I always helped others. I started having stomach cramps and thought it was stress from work and other life events. I went to my long-time family doctor and personal friend of 30 years, who misdiagnosed me for a couple years, trying this and that. I then decided to go get an ultrasound, thinking I had an ulcer.

As I lay on the table, the technician was doing her thing and then said, “One moment. I’ll be right back.” Then, the doctor came in and did the same thing. When the doctor returned the second time, he said, “There seems to be an unusual mass around your pancreas, and we think you need to be seen for it.” The next day I checked in as a new patient, had a CT scan, and met with a surgeon, oncologist and team.

In just a few short weeks after the initial diagnosis, I was at the hospital getting prepped for what turned out to be a 12-hour surgery. They removed most of the pancreas, several feet of intestines, three-quarters of my stomach and my gallbladder. They rerouted the way my stomach empties and did an assortment of other things. The tumor itself was six inches in diameter.

On release I was told to go home, resume life and eat whatever I want. I was so weak and wobbly, but we went to celebrate. One week later, I was in the worst pain of my life and ended up in the emergency room, where I was admitted for another week. It seems that the nerves in my intestines had quit functioning, and for the next six months nothing crossed my lips other than liquid shakes. I went from my healthy weight of 180 pounds down to 95 pounds.

As a survivor of pancreatic cancer, I now have been thrust into a new category that I had never heard of in my life, and it would appear that not many others have either. Approximately a year ago, my labs came back showing high glucose levels, and my A1C registered in at 9.8, so I am now considered diabetic. I also take pancreatic enzymes with everything I eat. The endocrinologist I met with stretched out his hand and said, “I would like to shake your hand.” In the 42 years he had been a specialist, I was only the second person he had met that fell into this category of diabetic. Not type 1 or type 2, but a category he referred to as PDD, or Pancreatic Deficient Diabetic. In my research I have found so far, some call it Type 3 (and no, I am not pregnant).

What more can be said, other than I am extremely fortunate to be here, hugging grandkids, feeling the breeze in my face and the sun on my back. After all, it’s not the destination, it’s the ride! We survivors understand the importance of enjoying the important, and many times the simple, pleasures of life and no longer stressing over the peripheral things.

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