Peggy Kessler: My name is Peggy and I had pancreatic cancer and I am a five-year plus survivor.
I was at work and my supervisor at work, mentioned that I looked yellow, and I said, “You know, I just don’t feel good”. She says, “Well you know Peggy your eyes look yellow”. So I decided that I go to the doctor and once I did, they did a lot of tests on me and then diagnosed me as a stage-4 pancreatic cancer.
They told me pancreatic cancer normally has a three to six-month lifespan, and I was devastated. And basically then they gave me two months and sent me home and said, “Get your affairs in order”, and it was just unbelievable. Obviously I said, “I needed another opinion”.
I was 41 at the time – very young, very active and for them to just tell me to go home and get my affairs in order was just devastating. I got up, lined up another opinion and in the meantime I couldn’t get to that place for like a couple of weeks. So in the meantime I was pretty much on the couch just dieing at home and my younger sister emailed her family and said Peggy’s got pancreatic cancer.
And they mailed back and said, “You know what, we had a friend of the family that went to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America with pancreatic cancer and they saved his life”. So I said, “Well, what’s that place?” So my sister Pam and my caregiver Jan, they got online and started making some phone calls, looking it up on the Internet and called the 1-800 number and got me there.
Once we arrived at the airport I still remember Rob standing there in his rain jackets, had my name. He was terrific. Brings back a lot of memories. He was there and he had my name on a card and welcomed us. I was in a wheelchair at the time. I couldn’t walk. So he got our luggage, took me out to the limousine. We all got in the limo and made the drive to Zion, Illinois – to the Cancer Treatment Center.
I had a consultation and I met Dr. Granick along with a few other doctors but I remember that one of the first times when he came into my room and Dr. Granick came in, Larry Wiggins came in, Julie and a few others that was nurses, and they all surrounded my bed. And then he started talking to me and he says, “Peggy, I have brought everyone here so they could hear the same thing that you are telling me. So if you have pain management and you need to talk to Larry, or if you need a nurse, the nurse is going to hear the same thing”. So Dr. Granick wanted everyone to hear what I was saying so it wouldn’t get lost in the translation.
July was the naturopath that came in to see me. We talked a little bit about nutrition. We talked about vitamins. We talked about natural things that I could do without putting more chemotherapy or drugs in your body to help relieve, there’s like pain, you can have pressure point areas, there’s natural things like ginger and different things that we talked about. And she was awful information.
When I was first diagnosed at home, when I was jaundiced, they had to put a tube in my side to relieve the jaundice, to release the bilirubin that was backing up. So basically back home I had this bag on my leg and they said, “That’s how you are going to live the rest of your life”.
Coming to the Cancer Treatment Center I remember the day that Dr. Vashi came in and we were talking and he looked and he says, “Now why do you have that bag on your leg?” And I said, “Well, that’s what my doctors said I live like that for the rest of my life and I wouldn’t swim again, I wouldn’t water ski”, and he goes, “Well, you want to swim again over here”, and I said, “Well how”, and he goes, “Well, you want to water ski”, and I said, “Yeah”.
And he says, “Well, we’re going to get rid of that. We are going to put a stent in and we’ll get that taken care of and you will live normally”, and it was just a breath of fresh air.
Lung cancer is devastating. It’s a part of my life now. It’s a part of my family’s life. I would love to live for another nine years, well if am having that long. My mom had actually lost her husband and my brother, and I didn’t want her to lose another and that helps me give strength to continue on to live.