Jason's Story

This is us. We're finally married! Best day ever. 
(Circa 2014)

Hi! I'm Robin. Jason is my husband.

Here is his own personal cancer story...

The beginning: Somewhere around April 2008, I went to bed with terrible stomach cramps.  I woke up in the middle of the night and the pain was so intense I could not sleep.  We decided to wait till the morning to go to my family doctor because my mother assumed it was just a bad ulcer.  I went in, the doctor assumed the same thing and sent me home with a prescription but decided to do some blood work just in case.  About 5 minutes after I arrived to the house, the doctor called and told me to get to the ER as soon as possible,  I had signs of severe pancreatitis.

 The amount of pain is hard to describe.  For about a year this went on, about 5 or 6 ER visits, lots of doctors seeing me and all asking the same question, "Have you been drinking?" to which I repeatedly said NO, I would NOT do anything to cause this kind of pain, but no one ever believed me.  From about the 2nd ER visit they did an ultrasound and found a "cyst" on my pancreas.  After about the 6th ER visit I was finally prescribed a pancreatic enzyme supplement pill which helped keep the bouts of pancreatitis down to a minimum, but they did not stop.

 I kept asking my doctor, Prasad Vankineni, MD (Gastroenterologist), if there was any way this "cyst" was interfering with the tubes going from my pancreas to my stomach which he repeatedly said "no."  After about a year and a half of dealing with having to go days without eating anything to keep the pancreatitis in control I decided to get a 2nd opinion.  My interal medicine doctor sent me to someone at UAB who immedialy concluded the cyst was wrapped around the tube going from my pancreas to my stomach after looking at the same scans Prasad Vankineni, MD (Gastroenterologist) had access to for the past year.  They wanted to drain the cyst to the symptoms would cease and I could return to a normal life.  At the end of march, 2010, I went down for an endoscopy (my 2nd, the first of which done by Prasad Vankineni resulted in the most intense pain of my life up to that point) to inspect the area again and drain the cyst.

Well, as you can imagine the cyst would not drain, it was not a cyst at all, so they did a biopsy and said it was for sure a tumor, and had to be removed or I would have to go the rest of my life dealing with this pain.  So I agreed to do a Whipple Procedure ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancreaticoduodenectomy ) on April 2nd 2010.  April 7th the results came back as a malignant tumor.  I had pancreatic cancer, and around 1-2 years to live.  Maybe 3-5 years if I'm in the lucky 3% to 5% range, and about 1 in a million to live 5-10 years.  Pretty tough news when you're laying in a hospital bed, and only 4 days ago you wished someone would have just killed you so the pain would stop.  Literally.

If I had the choice of doing that surgery again, I would turn it down in a heart beat.  I've never met anyone I can relate to on that subject - genuinely wanting to die for about 36 hours, after those first 36 hours the pain did not get much better, but at least I felt I might be able to make it out alive at that point.  The only thing that kept me from trying to end my life somehow was my faith, and knowing suicide was not an option.  I know for certain if I was not a Christian, I would have figured out a way to end my life.  Day 7 - I walked out of the hospital, which the doctors thought was amazing.  Day 8 I had a chicken baked potato from big bob gibsons.  I was not supposed to be able to handle solids for at least a week, and I learned why the hard way.

A few weeks later I began chemo for a month, took a trip to M D Anderson for their opinion (which they told my I was the 2nd youngest pancreatic cancer patient on record and the youngest living) then radiation for around 2.5 months, and now I'm back on chemo and still have another 4  months or so to go.  Radiation was the worst.  I would have rather been in the hospital bed at UAB again, at least for the last 3 days I was there, than do radiation.

If I have to do radiation again I'm hoping it will not be as bad - I'm sure recovering from one of the most intense surgeries known to man could not have helped my ability to cope with radiation.  Currently chemo is not all that terrible, at least when the only thing I have to compare it to is recovering from the whipple, intense radiation treatment, and pancreatitis.

10/15/2014 - Update!
We're married! We're renovating our house! Things are going pretty great. Jason's been to the ER a couple of times for pancreatitis (how this is even possible is boggling everyone's mind.) He is supposed to schedule an endoscopic ultrasound sometime in the future to see what's going on in there. Hopefully it can be fixed, because ER trips turn into hospital admissions which are no fun. He's also started a new-new job earlier this year, which is more like the job he had before the cancer, which is nice. It's very flexible in terms of schedule (for the most part, until winter time. Then it's kinda hectic.) Life is good! Very excited about our future.

3/6/11 Update!
I was accepted to take part in a clinical trial for the Pancreatic Cancer vaccine at Johns Hopkins.This vaccine has helped others who've had pancreatic cancer, live 10+ years and counting. This is huge! 5/4/11 Update! The doctors at Johns Hopkins have decided that the vaccine trial might not be the safest or best way to treat my cancer. They believe that my many episodes of pancreatitis, irritated an already present cyst and lead to my cancer. I will be making trips up to Baltimore/Johns Hopkins for Pancreatitis clinics and to see specialists who can hopefully cure or manage my pancreatitis. If this is possible, they believe that my cancer will more than likely not return. If I do keep having pancreatitis problems, they may remove my pancreas. This is a last resort, but an available option if need be. Thank you all for your continued support through this journey - it means a lot!

5/3/12 Update!
Jason has been doing pretty well lately, well - no pancreas issues at least! He's having some issues with higs legs (which he's had before) so once those are gone - hopefully he'll be issue free for good! He's also officially employed (currently without compensation) but will be getting licensed to sell insurance and be compensated soon.

7/8/12 Update!
Jason finished his first week of work - which was mostly training, and is looking forward to the next!  If you know anyone who needs insurance, let us know! :)

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