BY DR. LISA GOODMAN, DC, CCSP, CACCP
Pancreatic cancer is almost always fatal. And it does not discriminate. Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze, Michael Landon are among the far-too-young, successful celebrities who were not able to outrun the disease. No amount of money, power or connections will increase survival chances. No, with pancreatic cancer any increase in life expectancy is generally attributed to luck. That’s because most cases of pancreatic cancer are found in the late stages of disease. The lucky 7% who survive 5 years were most likely found accidentally during imaging.
My dad was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas several months after he began to experience symptoms and passed 6 months later. He was 64 years old and had not yet met either of his future grandsons. An avid golfer, he had just retired when he began to experience three key symptoms. 1) Mid back pain not relieved by chiropractic or medication 2) Acid reflux/upset stomach 3) New onset of diabetes. Other late symptoms of the disease include yellowing of the eyes or skin (jaundice), severe fatigue, and weight loss.
Pancreatic cancer is often misdiagnosed based on the benign nature of the symptoms. Often times patients will be treated for each symptom separately until a skilled clinician can tie them together. Ultimately a CT scan and biopsy are necessary to diagnose the condition. There are no easy to access, inexpensive or specific screening tests for pancreatic cancer. Many times it is diagnosed after it has spread to nearby blood vessels (stage 3) or to other organs (stage 4). Both situations make surgery impossible. Cancer of the pancreas is very tricky because it is a gland located deep in the abdomen which promotes quick spread of the cancer and hides symptoms until it is too late.
In an ongoing effort to continue the conversation about pancreatic cancer and make a difference, we founded the Kingsbury Golf Open in 2015. Our mission is to remember the loved ones we’ve lost by celebrating the game they loved. My dad, Tom Kingsbury was my best friend, an awesome guy and his life was cut way too short by this terrible disease. While he didn’t live in Denver, I am passionate about raising money for one of the top cancer centers in the country, the University of Colorado Anschutz. All of our fundraising efforts go directly to Wings of Hope for Pancreatic Cancer to improve patient care, fund research, and provide family support through such difficult times.
Final Thought – After my dad passed away, one of my heroes in the battle against pancreatic cancer was Randy Pausch. If you haven’t seen his heartwarming and inspiring lesson to his class at Carnegie Mellon, “The Last Lecture”, it is well worth an hour of your time. It is an amazing reminder that even in our lowest moments, even when facing a terminal diagnosis, we can still make a difference in our lives and the lives of people we have never met.
Donate or learn more at www.wingsofhopepcr.org