Chris P.

Pancreatic Cancer - Stage 4

Chris P - Pancreatic Cancer Survivor

For more than two years, I returned to City of Hope every month for five to six days at a time. I received chemotherapy intravenously and took advantage of all the supportive care services City of Hope offered.

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. 

Five years before I was diagnosed, I was working out four times a week and in great shape. I had always been on the go and eating whenever I could find time. Friends noticed that I had lost a lot of weight, but I just thought it was due to my active lifestyle. During this time, I was constantly having stomach problems. My doctors recommended over-the-counter drugs. For a month, I also had constant diarrhea. My doctors found nothing wrong.

Then, one day during my workout, I was stretching out on a Pilates ball and I noticed a bump protruding under my left rib cage. I knew something was not right. I had also been very tired, having a hard time eating, and in general, not feeling good. I just hurt. I went to my internal medicine doctor and had an MRI and CT scan performed. Four days later, the physician assistant told me that I had a mass in my pancreas and lesions on my liver. Holding back tears, I asked if they could take them out. But she said they couldn’t. The physician assistant mentioned that I should see an oncologist, and that was the first indication that she was talking about cancer.

Two weeks later, in June 2008, I was able to see an oncologist near my home outside of Bangor, Maine. Between the two appointments, I did a lot of research on pancreatic cancer. When I got to the oncologist’s office, I was told I had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The doctor recommended a chemotherapy regimen, which I did not believe was appropriate for me, based on my research. I also asked about other treatment options and was told no other options were available. My sister and I sought a second opinion from another hospital, but they recommended the same approach.

A few weeks passed by, and I remembered commercials I had seen for Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA).* Determined to find out whether other treatment options were available to me, I checked it out and made a phone call. I spoke with an Oncology Information Specialist at CTCA®, who provided me with lots of information. CTCA had what I was looking for and I was interested. I chose to fly to CTCA Chicago to learn more.

That August, I flew to Chicago. As soon as my mom and I walked in the front doors, I knew this was the place I needed to be. That day, I met with my nurse navigator, who explained how things would go for my evaluation and consultation. I first met with my intake physician, then I started all the testing—a bone scan, CT scan and PET/CT scan to confirm the diagnosis and determine whether the cancer had spread anywhere else. Next, I met with all the people who would provide me with supportive care services. Then I met with my medical oncologist. We discussed my treatment options. Everything was coming together the way I needed it to. Together, we chose a treatment plan, and I was ready to fight.

My treatment at CTCA

That weekend, my mom and I stayed in town and participated in day trips to local attractions the hospital organized for patients and their families. We went on a boat ride and to the Bristol Renaissance Fair. That was the best thing because it really helped take our minds off what I was about to go through the next week—beginning my pancreatic cancer treatment.

I started a chemotherapy regimen, which included intravenous chemotherapy (FUDR chemotherapy and leucovorin), as well as intra-arterial chemotherapy (cisplatin and mitomycin) to both my liver and pancreas.

The intra-arterial chemotherapy, in particular, was intense. But it knocked my tumor markers down dramatically. I went through four rounds of intra-arterial treatment. I experienced side effects, including nausea, low blood cell and platelet counts, and hair loss. I also needed blood transfusions. But progressively, I started getting better and feeling stronger.

For more than two years, I returned to CTCA every month for five to six days at a time. I received chemotherapy intravenously and took advantage of all the supportive care services CTCA offered.

The spiritual support I received at the hospital helped renew my faith. And my mind-body provider was a godsend to my mother and me. She’s somebody I felt comfortable talking to, and she helped me get through some really difficult times.

The first year of my treatment was really hard. In the second year, I felt as though my body regenerated itself. My energy level was great. Granted, it took me a couple of days to recoup after I received five days’ worth of chemotherapy. And some months were better than others. But overall, I had pretty normal energy three weeks out of the month.

During the treatment, I did a ton of juicing. That’s how I got a lot of my fruits. I juiced apples, carrots, red grapes, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries and cantaloupe. It was fabulous! I did it once a day. And when I was at the hospital, the culinary staff prepared my juices for me.

I had my first beer since I was diagnosed on the two-year anniversary of my fight. I couldn’t drink it for a while, and I didn’t want to. But two years is definitely a momentous thing. So two Guinnesses got cracked open. The next year, it was three.

Today, I follow a healthy diet and exercise, because I am borderline diabetic. In 2012, I stopped taking chemotherapy, and I have been returning to CTCA every six months for checkups.

Not letting cancer control my life

Since my diagnosis, I have started golfing, which has become my new passion. I even walk the golf course and carry my own bag. It’s empowering for me to be able to do that. And when I’m not golfing, I’m at the beach. I’m like a kid: I’m not indoors until the sun comes down. I don’t want to miss a thing. I work out and jog/walk about a half-mile when I feel up to it. A couple of times, I’ve even played basketball. It’s good for my body to do something different.

I’ve also started an initiative to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer. It began as the Purple Iris Brigade, and it became The Purple Iris Foundation in 2012. We’ve bought thousands of purple irises from the local garden club and planted them throughout the community, and we raise money for pancreatic cancer patients who can’t afford treatment. I also volunteer and participate in a couple of initiatives to bring awareness to pancreatic cancer.

* Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is now City of Hope®, working together to expand patient access to personalized, comprehensive cancer care. Because this patient testimonial was written and published before CTCA® and City of Hope joined forces, mentions of legacy CTCA locations have not been updated in the interest of maintaining the patient’s original voice and story details.