The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Pancreatic Cancer Part 2

The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Pancreatic Cancer Part 2. Late joining this series? Catch up on Part 1!

It was a big boost for me when I could leave our home and go out into the world and do something “normal” like going to the movies or a play, shopping, or having a meal out. My husband, dog and I had a day of adventure at the beach where we walked along the shore, had lunch, and did a little shopping. It was such good medicine for us all. I held that memory in my heart for a long time.

Cancer taught me to be a better recipient and to truly savor the precious moments in life. I envision a path, my healing path, which only I can walk. I walk this path, but I am not alone.

My Healing Journey Map from diagnosis to vibrant health.

I made a photocopy of the above page of my journal about my healing journey, how I wanted to feel, steps along the way, and brought a copy of it to the hospital with me when I had my Whipple procedure.

Below are some truths that I have discovered or experienced so far in my healing journey with cancer. My journey with pancreatic cancer has taught me that cancer:

  • Is not a punishment but a life-changing experience with lots of lessons to teach me.
  • Has its own timeframe and schedule and is helping me learn to surrender and trust more deeply.
  • Is not my fault, nor a result of something I did or failed to do.
  • Wants respect. Is under Divine control, direction, and timeframe.
  • Is with me for a season, and its lessons will last my entire lifetime.
  • Given me a huge heads up of her presence. She gave me a good start to thrive and flourish despite the diagnosis.
  • Allowed me to be a grateful recipient of every act of love and kindness, prayers and gifts sent to me and my family.
  • Brought me and my beloved immeasurably closer. He is a great caregiver.
  • Increased my awareness of self-care, boundaries, respect, and gratitude.
  • Helped show me how connected we all are. The ripples of love can be felt across the street and the world.

Relinquishing Control

Another lesson I learned is to relinquish control. A real-life example of this truth is that I had purchased a beautiful calendar/planning system to map out my year, my business, my engagements, and appointments. I was so thrilled to use this calendar and plan out my days efficiently.

When I began my treatments of biweekly chemotherapy, my pretty new calendar was replaced by my oncologist’s calendar which listed all my required blood draws, appointments, and chemotherapy sessions. Receiving this calendar and using it was a real act of relinquishing control. My oncology calendar had become my life plan for the next several months.

Energy Healing Techniques

There are many tools we can use to improve our immune response and a simple one is an energy healing technique called the Thymus Thump. Use it when you’d like to boost your immune system, increase your strength and vitality, or to help your lungs at high elevations. It’s easy, quick and you can do it anytime or anywhere. My friend Pam Bohlken, Energy Healer at Healing in Progress, describes the process, and here’s her video.

I liked to use this technique, and still use it almost every day to keep my immune system in fine working order.

Another energy healing technique I used is the Lymph Bounce. The lymphatic fluid is thick, similar in consistency to toothpaste. If we don’t move the lymphatic fluid around through brisk walking or bouncing, it becomes stagnant which increases the chances of disease. You can stand upright with your feet placed about shoulder-width apart and just bounce by bending your knees and lifting your heels up and down and move your arms several times. The goal is to get our lymphatic fluid flowing freely.

Statistics About Pancreatic Cancer

These following sections feature statistics from various sources including the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, The Lustgarten Foundation, and The good news is that the statistics are getting better as treatments improve over time. People diagnosed today may have a better outlook than the numbers below indicate according to the American Cancer Society.  

How Common is Pancreatic Cancer?

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for pancreatic cancer in the United States for 2020 are:

  • About 57,600 people (30,400 men and 27,200 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
  • About 47,050 people (24,640 men and 22,410 women) will die of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers in the US and about 7% of all cancer deaths. It is slightly more common in men than in women.

Surviving Odds and Staging

My oncologist, Dr. Michael P. Sherman, M.D., Ph.D., of Contra Costa Oncology, chooses not to “stage” pancreatic cancer but instead uses 3 measurements of evaluating the tumor by size, location and whether surgery is an option (resectable) or not (non-resectable) or borderline. Mine was borderline.

My case was considered borderline because the tumor had grown into the vein which makes for riskier removal. The protocol was to proceed with chemotherapy and hope that the tumor responded by shrinking it enough that surgery was possible.

  • Stage I

The tumor is confined to the pancreas and is considered localized. Stage IA tumors are 2 centimeters or less, and stage IB tumors are larger than 2 centimeters. Stage I tumors are usually resectable, the medical term for surgical removal. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for stage I pancreatic cancer is 34 percent.

  • Stage II

The tumor has spread outside the pancreas to nearby blood vessels, lymph nodes, or both, but it has not metastasized, or spread, to another organ. It is considered regionalized. Stage IIA tumors have moved outside the pancreas but have not spread to major nearby arteries or lymph nodes. Stage IIB tumors may extend outside the pancreas and spread to nearby lymph nodes without reaching major nearby arteries. These tumors are usually considered resectable or borderline resectable, which means they may be candidates for surgery, especially if radiation and/or chemotherapy treatments are able to shrink the cancer first. The five-year survival rate for regionalized tumors, which the ACS says includes mainly stage IIB, is 12 percent.

  • Stage III

The tumors have spread to major nearby arteries and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes, but they have not spread to another organ. Stage III tumors are usually not resectable. The five-year survival rate for regionalized tumors, which the ACS says includes mainly stage IIB and stage III tumors, is 12 percent.

  • Stage IV

Known as metastatic or distant cancer, stage IV tumors have spread to other organs outside the pancreas, usually the liver or lung, but also to the bone, brain, and other organs. The five-year survival rate for stage IV pancreatic cancer is 3 percent.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series this time next week!

– Janette

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