My Cancer Story

The Day My World Shifted

Posted 1 January 2016

In early October, 2015, I had a nagging but low-grade ache in my belly that I ignored for several weeks, assuming it was something transient.

By the end of the month, the pain had become more severe, and I went in to the Saturday morning clinic.

Thinking an ulcer was the most likely candidate, we treated for that, and found no improvement. So a few days later, I was at the gastroenterologist’s office. He ordered a CT, which was done the next day, November 5. His best guess at this point was pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas.

Early in the morning of Friday, November 6, I got a phone call from the doctor with the ultimate bad news: the CT showed a large tumor adjacent to the pancreas and the duodenum (small intestine), as well as metastases in my lungs.

This still left a lot of ambiguity, but there was little doubt, despite the details, that it was a Stage 4 cancer. The most likely candidate was pancreatic cancer.

The average lifetime from diagnosis for people with pancreatic cancer is 3–6 months.

My world was upside down. I didn’t know what mattered and what didn’t. How to go forward with this kind of diagnosis. Whether it was worth going through treatment for a couple more months of life.

Irene and I sat at our dining table and talked and cried and pondered. I, of course, did some web research. My dear friend Loralee came over and cried with us.

Sitting there, I felt like we had to just get away from everything for the weekend. With my whole world upside down, how could I just sit here at home and pretend things were normal? And we needed to think about how best to tell the kids, and our employees.

A quick search on airbnb turned up a nice-looking one-bedroom cottage in Mill Valley that was actually still available. Ten minutes later we had a confirmed reservation.

My brother Larry came to visit, and helped us get oriented to the medical realities. Then we packed up and headed off to Mill Valley, for the first night of the rest of my life.