We are honored to present a celebration and conversation with three long-term survivors of pancreatic cancer, Philip, Michelle and Donna. Our guests discuss how they have dealt with the highs and lows of their cancer journey. Moderated by Dr. Elizabeth Cleary of the Simms/Mann-UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, our panelists share insights into how they weather the bumps in the road as well as how they achieve and appreciate the wins. The panel also addressed audience submitted questions for an informative discussion filled with hope.
Elizabeth Cleary, PhD returns to our Patient and Family Webinar Series to celebrate and speak with three long-term pancreatic cancer survivors. In April 2020, Dr. Cleary presented on Coping Skills for the Pancreatic Cancer Community: Tools and Tips During Covid-19. We are happy to welcome her back to moderate our conversation with a 10, 20 and 30-year survivor. In this inspiring discussion they share how they navigate their health challenges to become long-term survivors of pancreatic cancer.
Philip is a 30-year survivor who in 1990 was diagnosed with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer (NET). There was no internet to research and little information available to him to understand what this diagnosis meant. He was a marathon runner and initially thought his pain was ‘runners stitch’ however, soon after he was told he had pancreatitis. After non-stop pain he entered a hospital in Los Angeles and after 4 weeks without improving he was told by a surgeon, “we need to open you up to see what’s going on.” Philip was in surgery for 19 hours and awoke to a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. After months in the hospital he was finally released. Eventually he healed and has lived a fairly normal life for the last 30 years. He credits his faith, will to live and the incredible support from his wife and family for his good health.
Michelle is a 20-year survivor of pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common pancreatic cancer. In 2002 she was diagnosed just one month before her 51st birthday. Other than a cousin who passed from pancreatic cancer in 1994 she had no other family history with this disease. She was tired for years and asked her doctor continually to test her thyroid to see if that was the culprit. Once diagnosed, she went to UCLA and Dr. Howard Reber, a renowned pancreatic cancer surgeon, to see if she was a surgical candidate. She was told she was inoperable and began chemotherapy. Her chemotherapy (5FU/Celebrex/Gemzar) was able to shrink her tumor from the size of an orange to the size of a grape in just six weeks! More chemo and radiation followed a successful surgery with Dr. Reber. Chemo continued for two more years and eventually she felt confident stopping treatment and starting life again. In 2014 she shared during our Annual Symposium that she felt “very healthy and had a good quality of life.” It’s time to check in with Michelle to see how she is doing six years later as she celebrates 20 years.
Donna is a 10-year survivor of pancreatic cancer (PDAC). Being in the best shape of her life, Donna found herself with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2011. She had the Whipple surgery performed by Dr. Joe Hines with Dr. Zev Wainberg as her oncologist, both of UCLA. The first 5 years post treatment were great! Then she went on a clinical trial which worked well for 2 ½ years. Today she is on a new clinical trial (targeted therapy) and is doing well. Even with the bumpy road Donna appreciates where she is today and has made life changes along the way to live every day to the fullest.