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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Jim Monaco

Pancreatic cancer - Stage IV

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.

View CTCA treatment results for pancreatic cancer

My story

I’m a retired home builder. I have been my whole life. I am the third generation in my family to build. I come from a family of five sisters, so I was the natural choice to pass down the family trade.

I married my college sweetheart, Cathy, and we live in Virginia. Together, we have two grown children and two grandchildren. They light up my life, and I love them all. Life was good, and we were all very happy.

But in early 2016, I was hospitalized after returning home from my daughter’s wedding in the Dominican Republic. I had flu-like symptoms, including severe joint and muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, headache, fever and exhaustion. After several tests, including a CT scan, it was determined that I had contracted dengue fever. I completed treatment and began feeling better.

Then in July 2016, I just wasn’t feeling myself again. I am pretty stubborn, so it took a while before I finally gave in and went to see a doctor. We ran some tests, and my bloodwork was abnormal. So I went in for another CT scan.

When my new CT scan results were available, they compared the new scans to the old ones. That’s when they found a mass on my pancreas that wasn’t there six months ago. A biopsy confirmed my worst fear—I was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the pancreas.

I traveled to the recommended medical center to formulate a plan to fight this cancer. I completed additional tests and then met with the medical oncologist. That is when I was told that the cancer had metastasized to my liver, and I was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. My prognosis did not look good. I was in shock.

Not giving up

All I wanted was hope, and instead, I felt like I had to get my affairs in order. My friends and family were checking in to see how I was doing, and I told everyone that I didn’t have much time.

My wife wasn’t going to give up, and she started researching and looking for options. She found a story about a woman who had stage IV pancreatic cancer and is now a survivor. She had gone to Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA). So I called the hospital system, figuring if she could do it, I can, too. Within a week, I was at CTCA® near Chicago for an initial evaluation with a team of doctors and clinicians.

The first day, I met with a medical oncologist, and halfway through the meeting, six nurses come in the room with a birthday cake, singing “Happy Birthday.” It was my first day at the hospital, and that kind gesture made it clear to me that CTCA was caring and compassionate.

The next day, I met with my entire care team, including doctors and supportive therapy staff. Together, we formulated a personalized treatment plan. The first step was chemotherapy. It was Friday, and my care team asked me if I wanted to start on Monday. I wasn’t really planning on staying that long, but my wife was encouraging and told me not to wait.

I spent months going back and forth from home to CTCA for treatment. Sometimes, people would question why I was going to Chicago and not treating closer to home. But the care I received at CTCA was like nothing I had experienced before. I never felt alone at CTCA. All of the employees, from the infusion nurses to the café workers, knew me and greeted me with smiles. I also had the company of other patients who were going through the same journey I was and helped keep me strong.

Fortunately, I was also able to have a rotating roster of family with me the entire time I was at CTCA. If my wife couldn’t be there, one of my sisters would come. I enjoyed the extra quality time with my loved ones. It also helped my extended family to see the unique care that CTCA provides and why it was important for me to travel for treatment.

Finding hope

I looked at survival rates, and I knew my odds at beating pancreatic cancer were not good. But I knew I had to try for my family. I couldn’t just give up. Almost immediately after starting treatment at CTCA, we started seeing results from the chemotherapy. The tumors in the pancreas and liver began shrinking.

Luckily, the chemotherapy was not too rough on me. I experienced some nausea, pain and neuropathy. CTCA helped me manage my side effects by providing supportive care therapies at the hospital. It made it so convenient for me to go from infusion to acupuncture. I also saw a dietitian and naturopathic oncology provider who communicated regularly with my oncologist and the other members of my cancer team. The pain management team helped me manage my pain and enjoy a better quality of life.

After about year of treatment, I completed another PET scan. The results showed no signs of cancer on my liver or lungs and only a suspicious area on a lymph node. So I began oral chemotherapy and started seven radiation therapy sessions in July 2017. I believe I am on my way to recovery.

Yes, it was hard to be away from home in the beginning, but here I am alive, a year later, so I know it was all well worth it. I stay strong for my family, to show them that you can make it through anything. My wife has been an amazing caregiver, and I know that I wouldn’t be here without her.

I continue to enjoy life. We took a vacation to Hawaii, and the trip made me feel rejuvenated. I needed the time off from treatment to find a new sense of determination to fight the cancer. I believe a positive attitude is important when going through a cancer journey.

I enjoy my time at CTCA seeing familiar faces, and everyone is always so friendly. But away from CTCA, I still live my life. I enjoy fishing, martial arts and kickboxing. I recently got a new dachshund puppy that we named Chemo. I love spending time with my family. I don’t know what the future holds, but I live each day as if there’s no tomorrow.