Beating the Odds of Pancreatic Cancer
- A mom of two boys who suffered persistent back and stomach pain was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which has just a 1% five-year survival rate.
- But now, 10 years later, she beat the odds and has no evidence of disease.
- Pancreatic cancer affects your pancreas when cancer cells grow out of control forming a tumor.
- The American Cancer Society says pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer. It makes up approximately 3% of all cancers in the United States.
- Pancreatic cancer symptoms often don’t appear for people until the disease has progressed. , leading to the disease being diagnosed at later stages when it requires more aggressive treatment.
Elis Tedeschi is living proof that the love of family can be a powerful motivator in the face of adversity. Even though she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given just 1% chance of surviving beyond five years, it’s now 10 incredible years later and she’s encouraging other cancer warriors to find their reason to keep fighting.
“We just need more survivors. And, I think I’ve been given this gift of life and I have to pay it forward,” Tedeschi, of Georgia, told WAGA News.Read More
The pain lingered for about six months until she finally went to see her doctor to find out what was wrong. Her doctors performed scans that revealed she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer at 43 years old.
There was a “large tumor on her pancreas,” and it had “spread to her liver.”
“I was just devastated because, you know, you think that you go along with life, and you know, that happens to other people,” she explained.
She said her thoughts went immediately to her boys, who were 6 and 8 years old at the time, and her husband.
A cancer diagnosis can be shocking and intimidating, along with a slew of other emotions. SurvivorNet experts recommend not blaming yourself for the disease and learning more about the disease to help you cope with the diagnosis.
However, what attracted most of Tedeschi’s attention upon her research on stage 4 pancreatic cancer was the survival rate. The five-year survival rate is just 1%, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“I just felt like I have to be in that 1%. I have to be in that 1% because I have to be there for my boys,” she said.
Then, Tedeschi did what many SurvivorNet experts recommend, and that is to get a second opinion.
Asking your doctor additional questions and even seeking a second opinion can help ease the initial shock and anxiety associated with a new diagnosis.
“I think it’s really important for them to be able to hear it multiple times, take notes,” Dr. Heather Yeo, a colorectal surgeon at Weill Cornell Medicine said.
“I support second opinions. I actually think it’s really important. I mean, if you think about it in life, how do you choose someone to cut your hair? You get an opinion, right? You usually don’t just go in and sit down with the first person you see on the street and say, cut my hair. You ask around,” Dr. Yeo added.
Tedeschi ended up with three opinions and after they all confirmed the diagnosis, she set her mind to beating the cancer.
“I would always say, ‘There’s no way I’m leaving my boy, and no one else is marrying my husband,” she said.
Understanding Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer affects your pancreas when cancer cells grow out of control forming a tumor, according to the American Cancer Society. The pancreas releases enzymes that help digestion and process hormones that manage your blood sugar Mayo Clinic explains.
Medical experts say it’s not clear what exactly causes pancreatic cancer.
The Cleveland Clinic says early-stage pancreatic cancer tumors don’t appear on imaging scans, which leaves many people affected learning they have cancer once it’s spread (or metastasized) to other parts of the body.
The American Cancer Society says pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most common type of pancreatic cancer. It makes up approximately 3% of all cancers in the United States, the Cleveland Clinic says.
Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms and Risk Factors
Pancreatic cancer risk factors include things you can change and others you’re born with. The American Cancer Society lists common risk factors as:
- Age: Most pancreatic cancer patients are older than 45.
- Gender: Men are more likely to get pancreatic cancer than women.
- Race: African Americans are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
- Family History.
- Inherited genetic syndromes.
- Tobacco use
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Exposure to certain chemicals commonly used in dry cleaning and metal industries
More on pancreatic cancer
- ‘Dirty Dancing’ Darling Jennifer Grey Shares What She Would Say to Late Co-Star Patrick Swayze, Who Died from Pancreatic Cancer
- ‘I Miss You Dad,’ Says Nicky Trebek, Remembering Her Late Dad Alex Trebek Who Died of Pancreatic Cancer, and the Support He Received
- ‘Monty Python’ Star Eric Idle, 79, Gets Back To The Jokes After Recently Announcing He Beat Pancreatic Cancer
- ‘Spider-Man’ Actor Andrew Garfield Says New Film ‘Tick, Tick…Boom!’ Helped Him Mourn the Loss of His Mother to Pancreatic Cancer: ‘It’s An Honoring Of My Mom’
When it comes to pancreatic cancer symptoms, they often don’t appear for people until the disease has progressed. And this leads to the disease being diagnosed at later stages when it requires more aggressive treatment.
The Mayo Clinic says some common symptoms of pancreatic cancer may include:
- Abdominal pain that extends to your back
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Light-colored stools
- Dark colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Blood clots
WATCH: Challenges to Screening for Pancreatic Cancer.
Treating Pancreatic Cancer
Treatment for pancreatic cancer depends on the stage and location of the cancer but common treatment methods include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Tedeschi’s cancer treatment involved chemotherapy and radiation.
“I did chemo cocktail that has four drugs in it…I did 12 rounds of that,” Tedeschi said.
The brave cancer warrior described her cancer treatments as “so intense” she dropped to “89 pounds” and powered through “25 rounds of radiation while wearing a chemo pump.”
She also underwent NanoKnife surgery, which allows tumors to be treated in difficult locations. She explained her tumor was wrapped around a key artery, necessitating the special procedure.
After recovering from treatment and now 10 years later, Tedeschi said she has “no evidence of disease,” far surpassing the doctor’s expectations.
“I’m just so thankful, and I think that anything is possible,” she said.
How Parents Find Strength in Children During Cancer Battle
Facing cancer as a parent can be incredibly daunting. Fearful thoughts about leaving your children may creep into your mind and add even more to your overflowing plate.
“No matter what your prognosis is, it’s essential to talk openly and honestly with kids,” said Laura Nathan-Garner, Director of Strategic Communications at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“Cancer patients with children can have increased motivation to endure difficult treatment but may also be concerned about the emotional impact of the illness on their offspring,” Dr. Cindy Moore of Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center explained to The ASCO Post, an oncology newspaper.
Dr. Moore said cancer warriors with children should discuss their biggest concerns with their healthcare teams so an effective communication plan can be created to explain their diagnosis to their kids.
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