I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late April, 2007. My diagnosis came as result of awakening one morning with jaundiced skin. My wife and daughter insisted that I see my primary physician to determine cause. He initially suspected gall bladder, but did not feel right about that and asked me to enter hospital for more extensive tests. The tests confirmed that I had pancreatic cancer. A local surgeon stated the cancer was on an artery and could not be surgically removed. He estimated the cancer to be early stage 3. What he and the local oncologist failed to tell me was that there are a select few surgeons in this country who can sometimes perform this surgery, depending upon the exact nature of the arterial location. In addition, the next morning, while still in hospital, an oncologist contacted by my primary physician told me my cancer was "the worst of the worst and there was no cure". He added that I was "as old as dirt anyway". I was 82 at the time, but I had and still have three living siblings older than me and my dad lived to 97. My wife fired him that day.
I requested to start a chemotherapy regimen and I spent many hours researching on my computer and found that Mayo clinic not only had several surgeons qualified to perform arterial resection to remove the cancer, but they even showed a diagram of it on their website. I immediately contacted their Jacksonville, Florida clinic, which is about a seven hour drive from my home in south Alabama.
I requested and was granted an appointment with one of two surgeons at that clinic who is skilled in whipple procedures involving arterial resection. After MRI, CT scan and other testing, he advised I was a candidate for surgery. He suggested I complete six chemo treatments prior to surgery. When I returned for surgery, the chemo had broken up the arterial involvement (which the surgeon and oncologist both stated was very rare) and arterial resection was not necessary, He did perform the whipple procedure, and I tested cancer free in all quarterly check-ups during the first year following surgery. At my fifth check up a small spot appeared at the site of the surgery on the pancreas, but the surgeon and oncologist do not believe it is cancer, I am scheduled for follow up MRI on the 20th of December to see what further action, if any, needs to be taken,
I am urging everyone that I come into contact with to seek a second opinion from one of the leading cancer treatment centers if a local doctor diagnoses them as having cancer; especially pancreatic. I believe I read in Mayo literature that something like 80+ percent of patients who come to them for second opinion are found to have been misdiagnosed by their local doctor. After my surgery, I learned that there are several cancer clinics who have surgeons qualified to perform arterial resection with whipple surgery if needed. What upsets me most about my cancer other than the cancer itself is that the local oncologist admitted to me after my surgery that he was aware that there were surgeons in other states qualified to perform arterial resection surgery as part of the whipple surgery but neither he nor any of the other local doctors involved in my treatment told me about them. If I had not sought a second opinion on my own, I would not be typing this message today.