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It was the summer of 2008, I was 64 and we had just purchased a tiny lake cottage on Kayuta Lake between Ithaca and Watkins Glen, NY.
I was beleaguered by consistent diarrhea and had the water rechecked to see if the well water was contaminated which was not the case.
A colonoscopy in the Fall showed nothing and I was told to eat more fiber.
That Winter I developed floating clay colored stools.
An internet search found two possible explanations Celiac Disease and Pancreatic Cancer.
My grandmother had died of the latter but I hoped for the former. Since
I had a total thyroidectomy 4 years earlier for thyroid cancer I deluded myself that I couldn't be unfortunate enough to have another cancer and pancreatic cancer at that.
My name is John Whitley, and I have lived in Nyack for 25 years.
In January 2011, I got sick, then rapidly sicker.
At first they thought I had a gall bladder problem, but when I didn't improve after gall bladder removal, I was referred to New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Many, many tests finally revealed that I was in the early stages of pancreatic cancer.
It all started with my yearly routine visit to my OB/GYN in May of 2012.
After my check-up, which was just fine, my doctor came back into the room and mentioned that there was a microscopic trace of blood in my urine.
I then visited a urologist, who performed tests that found a 12 cm mass in my abdominal wall.
After several weeks of abdominal pain last summer, I visited my primary care physician.
He ran a few tests, suspecting that my pain may have been related to previous issues, and I went home.
By the time I went back two weeks later, I had developed some back pain.
He promptly focused on the pancreas since it was located between the stomach and the spine where my pain was concentrated.
He ordered a CT scan which showed "something" on the pancreas.
Two MRI's later, my doctor, together with a gastroenterologist, showed us a mass at the head of the pancreas. Knowing that pancreatic cancer is a killer, I was overcome with panic.
Congratulations to Betsy Hilfiger, who will receive the 2012 Columbia Presbyterian Health Sciences Advisory Award for Distinguished Service.
The Advisory Council presents its highest honor to one individual each year whose work has made a singular impact on society's health and well-being.
The Pancreas Center Presents Our November Story of Hope:
Patient celebrates five year cancer-free anniversary
In February 2007, Sidney Stern was in Florida enjoying his usual escape from the cold New Jersey winter months.
He went for a routine follow up appointment with his vascular surgeon, as he had recently undergone surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Everything had gone well with the procedure, and he was feeling good.
But when he returned for his follow up CT scan, his doctor unexpectedly said, "We have an anomaly here."
Read Sidney's story here.
Karla's story began in April 2002, when she began experiencing severe backaches that continued to worsen. After learning on June 5, 2002 that she had cancer, she arranged an appointment at Columbia University Medical Center with Dr. John Chabot, Director of the Pancreas Center.
Dr. Chabot felt that her only option was the Whipple surgery. After a successful surgery she was informed she had 4/5 lymph node involvement and thus needed to undergo both radiation and chemotherapy.
Karla was prescribed Gemzar and Taxotere. Since then, none of her scans or blood work has shown any visible signs of active disease. Read Karla's story here.
When she made a trip to her local emergency room for a heart problem in 2009, Rokshana Husain could not have foreseen the complex journey that visit would initiate.
Not satisfied with her initial diagnosis, Rokshana sought a second opinion at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, which proved to be a life-saving decision. Read Rokshana's story of beating pancreatic cancer here.
As an infant, thirty-year-old Alyson Peluso, underwent surgery to remove a choleductal cyst in her bile duct.
Her lifelong digestive problems came to a crisis when she reached her mid-20s, leading her to the Pancreas Center, where a precancerous pancreatic cyst was removed.
Her experiences inspired Alyson to found the P.E.A.C.E Fund, a support organization for patients with pancreatic diseases and their families.
Paddling for Pancreatic Cancer.
September, 2011 Alyson Peluso set off to kayak for three days down the Hudson River and raise $10,000 for the P.E.A.C.E. Fund, which she created to raise awareness and funding for patients with pancreatic cancer.
Although the effects of Hurricane Irene impeded her journey, Alyson did much of the journey and has raised over $5000 and still counting.
Read her inspiring story here.
Stories of Hope: Ian Bernard's Story
In the Jewish religion a boy becomes a man at thirteen years of age by having his Bar Mitzvah.
As part of this tradition, Ian Bernard was asked to find a worthwhile cause to support with a portion of his gift money.
After considering all the potential organizations, Ian decided to donate a portion of his funds to the Pancreas Center at Columbia University in honor of his grandfather Barry, who fought a brave fight with pancreatic cancer until he passed in December 2008.
Ian hopes that by donating funds to the laboratory research of Dr. Robert Fine, Director of Medical Oncology at the Pancreas Center, it will aid in his quest to make pancreatic cancer a thing of the past.
From all of us at the Pancreas Center, we would like to thank Ian for this selfless contribution as we carry on our mission to treat pancreatic cancer.
Stories of Hope: Steven
Steven once a patient, now a grateful and giving survivor.
Second Opinion Turned Bob Brown's Hopeless Diagnosis Aroundfor
Over 3 Years
In late August, after completing the treatments for inoperable pancreatic cancer in March, 2008, Bob Brown underwent MRI and CT scans, as well as an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) to see if the treatments had worked.
His surgeon and oncologist sadly informed him that while his tumor had shrunk approximately 20%, it had not become operable.
His oncologist further informed him that he did not believe that he would ever become operable, and that there was not much else they could do for him.
He came to New York Presbyterian for a second opinion from Dr. John Chabot in October, 2008.
After reviewing Bob Brown's scans and reports, Dr. Chabot believed that that there was a discrepancy....
In March 2009, Bill was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer, which was declared inoperable because it involved the vessels surrounding his pancreas.
He underwent nine weeks of chemotherapy, and the pancreas tumor had shrunk to half its original size, but after a brief rest it began growing again.
In despair, Bill came to the Pancreas Center after learning its team performs surgery to remove inoperable pancreatic tumors.
Read Bill's story from the perspective of his wife, Janice.
Alia suffered from a a sensitive digestive system that was originally treated as acid reflux.
In 2009, as a 19-year-old college freshman, she was diagnosed with a benign tumor in the head of her pancreas.
She underwent a Whipple procedure at the Pancreas Center, and part of her pancreas was removed.
After Ralph Cheney was treated for gallstones and pancreatitis at his local hospital in Monticello, New York, a CT scan revealed a shadow on his pancreas.
His doctor suggested waiting six months and repeating the CT scan after the pancreatitis cleared up.
Ralph's wife, Mariann, thought otherwise, and after additional research, the couple came to The Pancreas Center for successful diagnosis and treatment of Ralph's pancreatic cancer.
Five years later, Ralph is a survivor who hopes his story serves as inspiration for others battling pancreatic cancer."
Ralph Cheney Receives Pausch Award.
For Lucien Zito, the process of finding appropriate treatment for his pancreatic cancer was a strenuous and protracted ordeal, adding to the stress of the diagnosis.
Fortunately for this energetic 65-year-old former real estate developer, he was able to draw upon a loving and supportive family and substantial inner resources for support.
Betsy Hilfiger, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger's sister, never had reason to believe she was at risk for pancreatic cancer.
Trained as a nurse, she was well aware of the illness and its known risk factors--smoking and heredity among others.
The Hilfigers had some cancer in their family, but none of the cancer syndromes associated with pancreatic cancer or pancreatic cancer itself.
But a routine battery of bloodwork showing abnormalities in her liver enzymes led Betsy to discover she pancreatic mucus cell cysts.
While initially benign, if left alone they almost always become malignant.