I received my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer the day I left the hospital after my distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy. I do not fit the typical patient profile at all. I am young by standards for PC, as most people diagnosed are over 60. I do not smoke. I am not overweight. I have no known genetic risk factors, or lifestyle risk factors. Even my doctors were all very surprised by what the tumor pathology showed.
Prior to my surgery, I knew I had a neoplasm in my pancreas but I had no real reason to believe it was cancer. The doctors felt that it needed to come out soon, but that it was probably benign or premalignant. As I went through the testing process prior to my surgery, I had days where I got very frightened, but I always convinced myself that I was very healthy and that I would be fine. I was more afraid of the surgery than of any potential diagnosis, truthfully. I really and truly felt the cyst would turn out to be of no consequence. When I got the news that there was invasive carcinoma, it took me some time to process it. I still don’t think of myself as a sick person, or even as someone who had a cancer diagnosis.
The diagnosis of pancreatic adenocarcinoma is a very scary one. The mortality rate is extremely high, even for early stage PC. The five year survival rate for stage 1 PC is about 30%. I have several things in my favor. I am still relatively young. I am very healthy. My tumor was small. I have every reason to believe I will be in the group of survivors.
I know I am lucky that my cancer was discovered early, and yet I don’t feel at all lucky that I had pancreatic cancer. I have tried to connect with other PC patients with a similar early stage diagnosis, but there are so few of us out there. The ones I have found were diagnosed and treated only a year or two ago. I want to find the stage 1 survivors who are still alive and thriving 20 and 40 years post treatment. I hope I am around long enough to provide someone in my position comfort and support years down the line.