My husband Joe Chedrick was a very quiet person at least until you got to know him. He was described as the type of person that did not say much but when he did it had meaning. He researched everything, could tell you all about cars, to finances, to home repairs. He was always very heathy. He would tell me he hopes that our children have his immune system. He went for check-ups twice a year and even his doctor was jealous of his results. So at the age of 48, when he started to feel full easy and was losing a few pounds, no one thought anything. I remember saying “I wish I had that problem”. The problem continued and became worse. After several tests and scopes it was determined he had cancer in his bile duct and his pancreas had pre-cancerous masses. We believed this to be curable; we had a doctor that had done hundreds of the Whipple procedures at UAB. January 10th 2014 he had his Whipple surgery and the doctor had to make a huge decision to also remove his pancreas. His exact words were that it was “too diseased”. Welcome to our new normal: Not only did he have the extreme pain from the Whipple but now he was a type one diabetic. For the following almost ten months food became our enemy. Every conversation included “What did you eat”. What to eat to try to get the energy and weight back on but how to keep his sugar levels under control. There were many battles we experienced, as with most cancer patients he acquired a very painful blood clot in his leg that landed him in the hospital for almost two weeks. A couple months later in the middle of the night he had a low blood sugar comma, which if you have never experienced it “and I had not” is very scary. My only description would be as if he was brain dead and could not respond. That again took him to the hospital for a week. All this time he was also taking chemo, according to his doctor, the most aggressive. He had four different types of chemo and he wore a chemo box home for two days after the chemo. He just kept on fighting even though he became weaker and weaker. His tumor markers were going down and we felt like we were moving in the right direction. By September he started retaining fluid around his stomach. The fluid was drained and it was cancerous. The doctor explained that the cancer cells had reformed and was not showing up in the tumor marker test. Last effort would be to drain the fluid again and do a different type of chemo. This is the path we took. Joe never quit trying. This was not successful and by this point he was at the end. I wanted to tell you Joe’s story because I wanted to share with you how this taught me about true love. A love that I probably took for granted for quite a bit of our 29 years of marriage. He refused to give up but not for him but for my kids and me. During the 29 years of marriage I never saw my husband cry for anything until this happened. He would cry and I would ask “are you okay, what’s hurting?” his answer was always the same ” I am not crying for me, I am crying for you”. You see pancreatic cancer was breaking his heart knowing he would leave us and we would feel the pain of not having him here to experience life with us. I never knew how many ways pancreatic cancer would change my life, my children’s life and how we value the time we have with our love ones.
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month means to me an opportunity to bring light to a deadly silent killer called pancreatic cancer. I like to post every day in November either a statistic about pancreatic cancer or at least a picture of support for pancreatic cancer awareness. I think this month is a time to encourage others to help fight for ways to stop pancreatic cancer before it attacks, develop tests for early detection and find a cure for those diagnosed. I proudly wear my purple and tell everyone why I am wearing purple and what that purple ribbon means to me. This disease does not discriminate against any one, if you think it can’t get me you are wrong. My best friend and I sponsor a Pancreatic Cancer Awareness day every other year, it’s a great time to share about pancreatic cancer and raise money for the Hirshberg Foundation. Within the last two years we have raised $10,000. I hope you will look for ways to get the word out and to support Hirshberg so that one day we won’t need to have Pancreatic Cancer Awareness months because pancreatic cancer will not exist.