It's been over 5 weeks now since I had my Whipple surgery for pancreatic cancer. I've been very lucky in that I've experienced no complications, and my recovery has moved along more rapidly than what is the norm for this procedure. I'm now walking the dogs 2 miles every morning, I'm back in the gym every other day for an hour, and I'm eating anything I want.
Prior to starting chemotherapy, I decided to go to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for a full 3-day work-up. We Texans are blessed for many reasons, not the least of which is we have the foremost cancer facility in the country right here in our state. While there, I met a cancer patient from South Dakota who had been receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. After Mayo had done all they could for him, he was referred to MDA as a hospital of last resort. And, the man told me he was doing better and wished he'd come to Houston much sooner.
M.D. Anderson is known for its multi-disciplined approach to each patient. A surgeon, radiologist, and internist review each case and decide on the best treatment. MDA is also famous for going overboard on diagnostics, especially imaging like XRays, CT scans, and MRIs. So, when I arrived there at 7 a.m. Tuesday, I was hardly surprised when the tech started an IV and pulled blood right off for a panel. In fact, the drill each morning was to place a catheter and draw blood before any further diagnostics were performed.
The CT scan is the preferred procedure at MDA for searching out pancreatic tumors as well as determining if metastasis, or spread, has occured. Happily, my CT scan showed NO evidence of cancer, neither at the original surgical site nor in any distant organs. This does not mean I'm cured...far from it...but it does mean I've got a much better prognosis going forward. No doubt, there are likely some rogue cancer cells hiding inside, and four months of chemotherapy will hopefully eliminate them.
I will start chemotherapy here in Tyler next week. I plan to participate in a clinical trial where an additional drug, erlotinib, will be administered with the preferred chemo drug, gemcitabine. Then later, radiation will likely be used. In August, I will return to Houston for a follow-up CT scan where, again, they will look for tumors. Further treatment may, or may not, be required based on the August findings. Going forward, I will be monitored periodically based on my response to therapy.
I have to say that I've been truly humbled by the prayers and good wishes by all who have written to wish me well. With support this powerful, I surely will prevail! Thank you all, David Baxter