Bob Brown was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in March 2008.
After a series of treatments, he came to the Pancreas Center in the hopes of being a candidate for surgery.
He later underwent a Whipple operation that changed the course of his life.
He shares his experiences in his book The Ride of My Life: A Fight to Survive Pancreatic Cancer available now on amazon.com.
We had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his incredible journey.
Q: What was your initial reaction when you were first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and some of the first steps you took toward treatment?
Bob: My initial reaction was a mixture of disbelief and devastation.
I didn't understand much of the intricacies of the disease, but knew that it was very lethal and very quick.
Afterwards, I started my treatment with a core group of doctors who I knew for some time.
Looking back at how I first started my treatment, I would recommend anyone who is diagnosed to not be afraid to seek more than one medical opinion, particularly those from physicians with significant experience dealing with pancreatic cancer.
It's a good idea to find out all the possible paths one can take and keep as many options open as possible every step of the way.
Q: You mentioned in your book about the enormous amount of support you received throughout your treatment.
Can you tell us more about this support and the impact it had on you?
Bob: I don't think you can really get through the whole process without a lot of support.
Luckily for me I had many different outlets to get that.
My family really formed the front line, particularly my wife and kids.
My wife is a cancer survivor herself and that allowed her to have a unique understanding of the mental battle that one faces throughout the course of beating cancer. Just as important were my friends and distant family members who all played a unique role in keeping my spirits up.
I was even given encouragement from total strangers and people who I was not close with.
It's very humbling to have that kind of support and it certainly kept my spirits up.
Q: The road to recovery for patients often comes with a lot of ups and downs.
How did you deal with some of the obstacles throughout your recovery?
Bob: I think it's very important to keep things in perspective.
You need to be focused on the real prize: beating cancer.
I always like to remind others that this whole process is a war comprised of a series of battles.
You're not going to win every battle, but as long as you keep fighting it's still possible to win the war.
In addition to keeping things in perspective, I tried to keep my life as normal as possible.
I did some of the hobbies that I've always done.
Though I admit I wasn't able to get the same amount of joy from them due to the effects of the treatments I was going through, but it's still essential to do what you can to keep the norm. In addition, the support I received from friends and family also helped greatly.
I think everyone has a unique combination of things that bring joy to their life. There's no one magical thing that gets you through all the obstacles, but rather a combination that complement one another.
Q: Eventually during the course of your treatment you came to the Pancreas Center.
How did you hear about us and what specifically bought you here?
Bob: There were two reasons that bought me to the Pancreas Center.
I was initially diagnosed as inoperable and the surgeon I first saw said to me that if I was ever to become operable in my course of treatment I needed to see a surgeon who is more experienced in dealing with pancreatic cancer.
That someone was Dr. Chabot from the Pancreas Center.
So even at the very start of my treatment, I already knew about the center and the goal was to go there once I became a candidate for surgery.
Despite the treatments I was going through, I still wasn't deemed operable.
I didn't want to give up hope and I went to the Pancreas Center as sort of a last resort.
Surprisingly when I saw Dr. Chabot, he told me that I was in fact operable and that moment changed everything.
Q: It has been a very long time since you were first diagnosed.
How has this experience changed you and your perspective on life?
Bob: This experience changed everything.
I know it sounds cliché but when you go through something like pancreatic cancer it teaches you in a moment what's important.
I realized that some things are only secondary in life and what's really important are your family, friends, and your relationship with them.
It really made me cherish the moments when I'm with the people I love and made me appreciate and do the things that bring happiness to my life.
Q: Is there anything you would like to say to patients and their families who have been affected by this disease?
Bob: I know it may be difficult at first, but you have to embrace the fact that you have cancer.
You must not be frightened by it or run away from it.
I think people have to realize that the moment you're diagnosed it becomes a war and you must do everything you can to save your life and prepare to endure through the challenges you have to face.
I know it's not the easiest thing to do, but you have to be prepared to endure if you're going to get through this.
Remember, no matter what cancer or stage of cancer, there is someone out there who has survived.
There is always hope and a chance for survival despite the statistics. Don't give up hope, and don't be afraid to seek help or support.
Q: Do you have any suggestions to patients and their loved ones where to seek support?
In addition to traditional medical treatments, I recommend that patients also seek psychosocial support throughout the course of their treatment.
There are also some amazing organizations out there like PanCAN and Lustgarten who have a wealth of information on the disease.
However, I think one of the best things one can do is get in touch with a pancreatic cancer survivor.
The emotional bond that you can build through that relationship can be very powerful and is a constant reminder that there is hope.
What to expect from an appointment with a specialist:
Pancreas Center patients have access to a highly experienced, multi-disciplinary team of gastroentorologists, oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, nurse practitioners, geneticists, genetic counselors and nutritionists.
You can play a more active role in your own health care, gain access to innovative therapies before they become widely available, and help others by contributing to advancements in medical research by participating in clinical trials.