In March 2009, my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It started with strange symptoms of feeling full without having eaten anything, fatigue, and a knot in the upper part of his stomach. He also experienced some tingling in his arm one day and after a negative cardiac work up, the doctor ordered a CT scan which showed a pancreatic mass. He underwent an endoscopic biopsy which confirmed pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Initially, we were shocked beyond belief because he had always been a very healthy man and were very scared because the odds were not good.
He was referred to a surgical oncologist for possible resection which turned out to be the route we took after doing much research and obtaining a 2nd opinion. In April 2009, Bob underwent a distal pancreatectomy and the tumor was completely removed. Pathology came back Stage IIb which we were hopeful about as this placed him at a higher percentage rate for survival. He developed a subsequent infection requiring a 2nd hospitalization lasting 2 weeks (1 week longer than the original one!) After recovering, Bob started chemo and radiation in July for 6 weeks total. He lost so much weight and got so sick from the treatment, but he fought it and amazed me each and every day with his determination to keep on fighting.
He managed to gain some weight back and we enjoyed the holidays as he finally was able to eat normal again. After he received a negative CT scan in February 2010, we were extremely hopeful and took several memorable family trips. Bob even went skiing in March which he loved to do but hadn’t in several years. We enjoyed our wedding anniversary in May and in June, he watched his oldest son graduate from high school which gave him great happiness. He also turned 55 and retired hoping to finally enjoy fixing up the house full time. Sadly, this was about the same time his health started declining.
Bob developed pain and discomfort which led us to the ER and the hospital twice in early July. I first thought it was scar tissue from the surgery and/or radiation. A follow up CT showed the cancer was back and had spread to his liver, stomach and intestine. How could this be after a negative scan just a few months prior? This was such a blow that words cannot describe what we were feeling. He was discharged and the doctors recommended hospice.
The following 2 months were non-stop as I decided to take off work to be his primary caregiver. I had been to every doctor appointment since his diagnosis, every chemo and radiation session, visited in the hospital as much as I could with a 4 year old to take care of, and in the end, spent every day by his side doing things I never imagined I would have to do. But I discovered that this is what love is truly all about. I decided if he was tough enough to fight this, then I would be tough enough to take care of him. Towards the end, I hired someone to help as I was getting very tired. Despite how sick he was, he was determined to keep living. I only had the helper for 1.5 days before pancreatic cancer took Bob’s life on September 1, 2010.