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Pancretic Cancer Awareness
My Best Friend, Jim, with his brother (Jim - on on the right) Now in Heaven
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness
Prior to November 1, 2014 my dear sweet Jim, only 53 years young, began talking about the fact that he thought he had an ulcer. He kept saying his stomach hurt. I repeatedly nudged him to make an appointment with his doctor to check it out. Of course, like many of us, when it comes to going to the doctor, he put it off.
Just shy of the beginning of November he began to lose weight. Both of us ignored this symptom as he had just begun a new job and we believed the stress of the new job and the amount of walking he had to do were the major contributing factors. I was even a bit envious of the weight he was losing telling myself that men lose weight so much easier than women.
At the end of October though, Jim began to have a yellow hue to his skin. It soon became apparent that he had developed jaundice. Jim could no longer put off seeing a doctor. We had to find out what was going on. On November 1, 2014 he was given a CAT scan and a mass was found on the end of his pancreas. We were quickly shuffled through a series of tests and on to Roswell Hospital for even further testing. The surgeon felt that even without having further conclusive evidence, Jim had pancreatic cancer. He believed though that it had not yet spread to the other organs. We were relieved to hear that. We were told that this meant that Jim could be considered to be between 2 and 3 stage cancer. This would mean chemo and that he would still be a candidate for surgery. Of course we would not know anything until the endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) test was completed. This is a test that utilizes a flexible endoscope, a lighted scope and along with x-ray pictures, examines all of the tubes that drain the liver, the gallbladder, and the pancreas.The endoscope is inserted into the mouth and guided down the throat, through the esophagus, the stomach, the duodenum and eventually reaches the ducts as described above.
Endoscope Diagram 1
The test was just a formality, or so we believed. Thank heavens, as bad as this was, the cancer had not yet reached the other organs. We had also just learned that Jim had developed atrial fibrillation. This meant we had to begin paying attention to cardiac issues as well. After the procedure, ERCP, the very kind doctor came and sat down beside me in the waiting room and informed me that Jim actually went into fib on the table. He assured me that my sweet Jim was fine, however, and the test went smoothly -- well sort of. Another doctor came in to let us know that "spots" had been detected on the liver. He stated that these could be from daily life however. We would need to wait for the biopsy to find out. More nail biting ahead we realized.
A week passed and we learned the devastating news. Jim had progressed to stage 4 PC as the spots on the liver indicated the cancer had metastasized. This meant that surgery was no longer an option. Jim was given 6 months to live if he opted out of chemo and perhaps a year if he took the chemo. We were devastated. I broke down. I felt so powerless. I could no longer pretend to be strong.
After a short discussion, we opted for Jim to have the chemo. On his next appointment, however, the doctor shared that he had developed an infection where they had put stints in to alleviate the jaundice back during the first procedures. That meant having to wait 2 weeks until the chemo could begin, as they could not put Jim through this with an infection. They did decide to proceed with inserting what they called a mediport though in readiness for the chemo.
A day after the mediport was surgically implanted Jim began not feeling well. Within days things escalated and he was sweating profusely. I insisted upon taking him to the hospital. Jim's heart rate was steady at 170 to 180 beats per minute. That is equated to someone running as hard as they could on a treadmill and never stopping.
Jim's health declined from there. Soon he was confused and we began our experience with palliative care doctors and Hospice. I lost my dear Jim on December 14, 2014 when he died at home. His two children were with me and we held his hand as he slipped away.
Do you feel like the last part of this essay has an abrupt ending? That is how we felt as we went through this devastating time period. It went fast and had an abrupt ending.
The world lost a good man. He was selfless and so aware of others. We must find a cure for this terrible disease.