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Friday, October 31, 2014

So hard to find the finish line...

It's time to wrap up our series with Mapping the Journey: Pancreatic Cancer 101... Yet, so hard to find the finish line...

There is much still on my heart to share.  Did we really just scratch the surface?   Each journey so unique, yet bound together by the hurt and hope of this cancer road...

Most Journeys end with a specific destination in mind.  Our GPS navigators need an address to point to.  An end of the road, a stopping point...

We laugh with dear friends over their recent trip to Niagara Falls.  Despite all their careful planning, a reservation snafu about did them in.  They had excitedly researched their scenic road trip and planned short, overnight stays  at several charming Bed and Breakfasts within a couple hours of the Falls and Lake Ontario.

All went well until the morning  they plugged their next Bed and Breakfast destination into their GPS and discovered that they had made reservations at an Inn 16 hours away... Turns out that Prince Edward Island and Prince Edward County are indeed two very different destinations!

A quick phone call put their reservations to rights, and with the ease of seasoned travelers they said "Oops" and the journey continued on... (and provided countless hours of hilarity for their family and friends... they are on our DO NOT LET THEM PLAN OUR NEXT CAMPING TRIP list... we may end up on a deserted Island somewhere kind of humor.)

It's somewhat the same as we map the cancer road, minus much of the humor to be sure.  Along the way on mom's pancreatic cancer journey, we had more than our fair share of "oops" moments... when things didn't go as expected, or even happen at all... when treatments failed or caused more than "slight discomfort."  Harder here to just shrug it off and continue on.

This destination, this life... this journey is so vitally important.  It is where life and death hang in the balance.  Where every detour leaves us blinded and panicked... 

How do we handle these dips and curves in the road?  The ups and downs, the roller-coaster journey that cancer drags us through?

We are learning, moment by moment that this is where Grace finds us and carries us...

It is as much a part of the Journey as the doctors and treatment plans and decisions over clinical trials and alternative medicine.

Would you walk with me just a little further?  Down roads where cancer isn't the main attraction?  Where Life Lived Well trumps every dig from cancer's cruel grip?

There is a Way... There is a Peace that covers our path...even a path that is marked by pancreatic cancer.

Join me tomorrow as we explore the work of Hope, and Family, and Friends, and Love on this Cancer Journey...

There's always Grace enough for each day, Always,

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mapping the Best Plan for Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

Our series is coming to a close... we have mapped a journey through both traditional and alternative treatments for pancreatic cancer.

So many cancer patients are struggling hard with these decisions...

Do we take the conventional, traditional approach that our oncology doctor is advocating.

Or do we listen to some of the alternative, holistic methodology and treat our cancer the natural way...

Our very lives tremble in the balance on decisions we make today.

The. Hardest. Decisions...

What if it were possible to blend the best of both worlds?  Traditional and Alternative?

Might I share a whisper of Hope to those on the hard road of this cancer journey...

There are survivors.  Moms. Dads. Sisters. Brothers. Friends. Family. 

They have survived and thrived and are journeying past the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.  Is it not the hope of our hearts?

Meet Chris.  She was diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer in 2008.  She was told she had 6 months to live.  A second opinion confirmed the devastating diagnosis, offering little in the way of Hope.  Chris wasn't ready to give up.  She was ready to fight.  She just needed to find a healthcare team that was up to the battle.  She chose Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

In this unique Medical Center, patients receive state of the art treatment with the latest technology has to offer in conventional care (chemo, radiation and surgery) along with the time-honored techniques of naturopathic medicine to strengthen the immune system and naturally manage the grievous side effects of cancer treatment.

Chris chose to use a uniquely blended treatment plan for her cancer.  This included traditional chemotherapy as well as a nutritional program (juicing), naturopathic support (herbal supplements), acupuncture and massage, as well as several other services specifically fine-tuned for her case.

I encourage you to click here to read her story. (even if you never check other links, please, please, be encouraged by her journey... click the link for

Because when you've finished her story, you can read about Roger, and Sybil, and Cissy, and Peggy...

Survivors.  Thriving after Pancreatic Cancer... Hope to Hurting Hearts.

CTCA is quick to point out that their results may not be typical or expected.

BUT, to Chris and Roger and Sybil and Cissy and Peggy... they are living out their results every day... Grateful, Alive and so Generously Paying It Forward, Spreading Hope for each one of us caught in the living nightmare of this pancreatic cancer journey.

So what makes Cancer Treatment Centers of America so different?

They are what we would consider an Integrative Cancer Center.   Integrating the best of the traditional cancer treatments with the holistic, naturopathic techniques that support the whole body and encourage the natural self-healing process.

And they are not the only Cancer Centers beginning to incorporate this Integrative Management Plan...

The Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment

Pangaea Clinic of Naturopathic Medicine

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Integrative Medicine Services

The Integrative Medicine Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center

And the list goes on... I could not say that each Integrative Cancer Center uses the same philosophy... some tend to lean more towards the naturopathic (alternative) approach and others still lean towards traditional treatment with a small nod toward the nutritional aspect of cancer care.

If this type of cancer treatment plan intrigues you... then let your research begin.

Call the Centers.  Talk to their teams.  Ask Questions.  Lots of Questions...  Do more research...

This is where the Knowledge you have gained by learning about the different approaches to pancreatic cancer treatment pays off in Power...

The Power to make an intelligent, well-thought out decision for your care...

The Powerful Perspective of Priorities... for as you have read, and listened and prayed... the goals most important to you will have surfaced... and the decisions will follow...

Integrative Cancer Care... Perhaps it just may be the best of both worlds... It may or may not be the right choice for you.  However, now we know that there are choices.

Here it loud and clear...

There are options for this pancreatic cancer journey... And Hope...

Praying hard as decisions are made, and battle lines are drawn in this fight for our very lives.

Trusting in Grace to guide us safely through, Always,

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Barley Life

In the whole scheme of pancreatic cancer treatment, the Barley Life Supplement is pretty far down the list.

It doesn't claim to be a miracle cure.  As a matter of fact, the Barley Life developers are careful not to advise their supplement for cancer treatment.

Here is a link to their page on the Barley Life products.

As you can see it is simply a whole food concentrate made from the young Barley grass.  You can read about the process and benefits of the Barley grass here on this datasheet.

So, you're wondering, why do I mention it here?  On our journey to discover the best pancreatic cancer treatments?

Well, Barley Life can be considered a cancer treatment aid.  Not a cure.  But a tool to use to help your body maintain optimal health and immune safety while undergoing the rigors of many cancer treatments.

Mom actually did try the Barley Life supplement at the urging of a dear friend.  We have tracked her progress on the website with Barley Life here.

As you can see, Mom did think the Barley Life capsules helped her in small ways on her journey.  The Gemzar chemotherapy protocol is not an easy treatment.  Mom dealt with many side-effects.  The biggest was the never-ending low blood counts.

When she began taking the Barley Life, we believe that the blood counts stabilized somewhat.  Did they completely reverse the effects of chemo?  NO.  However, her general malaise, fevers and flu-like symptoms were much less pronounced and she was able to stay on the Gemzar treatment for many months longer than her doctors anticipated.

Did the Barley Life perhaps contribute to her ability to maintain traditional treatment?  Possibly.

We make no claims here.  Just sharing mom's story.

It's another piece to the puzzle.  For the one thing we have found on this cancer journey, there is no such thing as a simple fix.  Whether you try traditional or alternative treatments, there will be questions and side effects and difficulties.

The Barley Green supplement may offer some badly needed support in the fight....

One battle at a time. 

In Grace tonight,

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Graviola and PawPaw

Autumn and Pepaw

Oh wait... Was that PawPaw you say?  My mistake... Pepaw's one of my most favorite people in the world, it's understandable that I would hear Pepaw instead of PawPaw... Tomato, Tom-ah-to and all that, besides we needed a picture that smiles after a whole month of Mapping the Journey with Pancreatic Cancer!

But back to Graviola and PawPaw... I am already very intrigued by an alternative pancreatic cancer treatment called PawPaw.

So,what's up with these two?  Let's get down to some serious research...

Graviola is a tree found predominantly in the rainforests of Africa and South America.  It produces a fruit that many believe possesses amazing cancer fighting potential.

The Graviola fruit is also called Soursop, Custard Apple or Brazilian PawPaw.

But don't get confused.  There is actually a PawPaw tree that grows throughout much of North America.

The Graviola tree and the PawPaw tree are "cousins."  And both have reported cancer fighting potential.

Here's the Graviola Tree:

And here's the PawPaw tree:

I found a lot of detailed medical information. For example...

Graviola extracts were effective against the growth of adriamucin-resistant human mammary adenocarcinoma (MCF-7Adr) by blocking access of cancer cells to ATP and by inhibiting the actions of plasma membrane glycoprotein.  They also inhibited expressionof HIF-1a, NF-kB, glucose transporters, and glycolytic enzymes resulting in decreased glucose uptake and ATP production in pancreatic cancer cells.

I'm feeling a headache coming on...  The only words the average person understands in that paragraph is cancer cells.  From there it's all Blah-Blah-Blah....

Thank goodness for a simpler version... for folks like me...

In the 1970's, a study by the Purdue University was funded by the National Cancer Institute to research the cancer fighting potential of these plants.  They found that the graviola seed was 10,000 times more powerful than Adriamycin, a chemotherapy drug.

Can I just say Wow?  And this was, ummm, 40 years ago?  But wait, it gets better.

The scientists, led by Dr. Jerry McGuire found that the PawPaw plant was 24 times more effective than Graviola.

I might be a little speechless...

Are you asking the same thing?  Why haven't we heard more about these trees and their amazing anti-cancer potential?

I don't have an answer (still speechless)

But I do have some more ancedotal information.

It appears that these trees (the bark, leaves, roots, fruit, seeds and pulp) contain natural chemicals that effectively stop the growth of certain cancer cells.  

These natural chemicals are called Acetogenins.  They are fatty acids that somehow (that's my shortcut to a long biological explantion) shut down the growth of blood vessels in these cancer cells, so they are unable to get energy and therefore die.  The acetogenins also slow the growth of multiple drug resistant cells (like cancer cells).  So all in all, the Graviola and PawPaw trees sound pretty amazing...

One particular study found that the leaves of the PawPaw tree had the strongest effective against pancreatic cancer cells.

Unfortunately, all these past studies have been done in the lab, not on humans... Sigh... Of course, something that sounds so good, just might be...too good.

Which brings me to the critics of such amazing claims...  there's just not enough clinical evidence using human trials to verify some of these astonishing claims.  The Cancer Treatment Centers of Amercia have posted this article concerned over the possible neurotoxicity of using Graviola.

And their concern is valid, in the sense that more human clinical trials are needed.  Does that diminish the hope that preliminary trials in the lab have given us?  I, for one, believe that we are so close to unraveling the pancreatic cancer riddle.

Will it be Graviola or PawPaw?

I just don't know... but I can leave you with one woman's personal battle with pancreatic cancer and how she implemented graviola into her treatment plan... 

As always, please, please discuss these treatments with your healthcare team.  The use of Graviola and/or PawPaw may lead to serious complications, side-effects and neurotoxicity... of course, chemotherapy and radiation aren't too gentle either... just saying...

Praying hard through this journey, for wisdom, for grace, for understanding.  May each day bring us closer to the time we can say with confidence... I am a Pancreatic Cancer Survivor.

Hallelujah Moments in the Making.
                                           My Love, Always,

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tea Anyone?

One can't research Pancreatic Cancer Treatments very long before running into Essiac Tea.

It has long been touted as an effective method of curing cancer...even pancreatic cancer.  I definitely feel it has a place here in our pancreatic cancer alternative treatments discussion.

I have never made Essiac Tea or tried it.  But the research was indeed interesting...

Essiac tea is composed of 4 herbs. 

Two are Sheep Sorrel and Burdock Root, both known for their cancer-killing effect.  And the other two are Slippery Elm Bark and Turkey Rhubarb Root, known for their immune-boosting powers.

Essiac Tea has its share of critics... but what I couldn't find were any ancedotal experiences of harm from the tea, so as our motto is "first do no harm," I am inclined to include Essiac Tea here for consideration.

To get a really good understanding of the History and Story behind Essiac Tea, take some time to read through the articles at The Truth about Essiac on the Health Freedom website.  They present an abundance of information about the tea and all the hows and whys behind its apparent success.

They also have a link to several videos about Essiac Tea.  One in particular is very informative on how to Brew the Tea at home...

Many local health food stores will also share copious amounts of information... But, here one needs to be careful.  In my research I have come across many vendors that have jumped on the Essiac Tea bandwagon.  Some sell products that may or may not have the correct herbs, or potency. 

So... Two Big Cautions for this alternative treatment:

1)  As always, please, please talk with your healthcare team if you are considering adding Essiac Tea in to your treatment plan.

2)  Whenever possible, grow the herbs yourself and make your own tea to insure purity, and if that's not possible, purchase the herbs and/or tea from a reputable herbal dealer.

Do I think that drinking Essiac Tea will cure pancreatic cancer?  I honestly do not know... I wish, so often, that mom was still here.  Perhaps she would have given it a try.  Then we might have had a more personal experience with this alternative remedy.

Do I think that drinking Essiac Tea will harm you?  I do not believe so... but always caution you to talk with your doctor... each case is so different, each body has unique strengths and weaknesses, each treatment plan is dependent on so many factors, and each herb has much potential for good...

And bad.  Remember... Hemlock is a Herb... A Very Poisonous Herb.  Do Not Underestimate the Power of Plants!

I don't believe that drinking this tea would cause problems, but when working with natural herbs one must always be aware of their extreme potency...

If you have experience with Essiac Tea, would you share?  All on this journey need to hear your story...

Because each story helps us Map the Journey... With Hope.  And Grace.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pit Stop Sunday... Life Lessons

Some lessons take a lifetime to learn.

Here are some we've been learning along the Journey...


Because it's All Grace this day,
My Love Always,

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Vitamins and Pancreatic Cancer

 The year was 1535, the winter brutal on the St. Lawrence River...  And Jacques Cartier was up to his hip boots in dying sailors.  A strange disease had taken hold on his ship and most of his men were in misery... bone-deep fatigue, frightening skin rashes, bleeding gums, partial paralysis... Many feared witchcraft, or spells cast on them by the native populace...

As ice froze his ship to the shoreline, so to Cartier's chances of making it back to France.  With no where else to turn he sought the natives help or risked losing his whole crew...

The locals boiled the needles of the tall White Cedar trees that lined the banks and made a tea for the crew to drink. Some feared it was poison, but the desperate few who drank it down almost immediately began the return to good health.

Jacques Cartier was astounded at the miraculous turn-around... Little did he know that he had just witnessed a simple, natural cure for Scurvy.  The needles of the cedar trees are chock full of Vitamin C.  And Vitamin C deficiency is what his sailors were experiencing.

It is estimated that between the years 1500 and 1800, scurvy claimed the lives of at least 2 million sailors.

And all for the lack of Vitamin C...

*  *  *  *  *

Today, could a cure for pancreatic cancer be as simple as a Vitamin Deficiency???

In yesterday's post on Immunotherapies, we learned there are clear advances in new trials to battle pancreatic cancer.  One of the things that these clinical trials has exposed is that the fight against pancreatic cancer isn't just a fight to kill the tumor, it's the fight against a tumor in a setting hardwired to resist treatment.

Let me explain a little better...

Scientists have found that pancreatic cancer tumors have an unusually thick layer of scar tissue, called the stroma, that builds up around the cancer and prevents drugs from getting through.  This scar tissue, or stroma, is also forming a barrier to the bodies own immune cells, preventing them from getting in and attacking the cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer is one hard to treat cancer... ok, I'm stating the obvious, but really, isn't cancer bad enough without learning that it's put up a fortress to protect itself?!

So, there are new trials on the horizon (and some that are actually in clinical trial) that are seeking to break through that barrier... with Vitamins!

2 Vitamins in Particular... A and D

Here's the scoop.

In a current study on Vitamin A, researchers found that pancreatic cancer patients are often deficient in Vitamin A.  In their trial, they restored the levels of Vitamin A, and they found that more T-Cells (these are the good, immune-busting guys from yesterday's post!) got past the stroma and into the cancer, effectively attaching the tumor from within.

Unfortunately, this study right now is being conducted in mice...not humans... but this is a step in the right direction.  They may be on to something...

The studies on Vitamin D are very similar.  Researchers are using a synthetic form of Vitamin D to knock down the barrier wall of cells surrounding the pancreatic tumors and opening a path for chemotherapy drugs to destroy the cancer.  The synthetic Vitamin D is called Paricalcitol, and has also been tested with good success in mice... but it has also advanced to the human testing stage with trials set to begin at Penn Medicine.

As an interesting side note, the reason that a synthetic Vitamin D is being used is because the natural occuring Vitamin D is "shredded" by the cancer and degrades too fast for it to be effective in knocking down the barrier wall.

Vitamins... Who knew?  Well, probably a lot of very wise people... like the indigenous tribe of locals that helped Jacques Cartier's crew recover from the deathly grip of scurvy.  It's just a tragedy that it took another 2 centuries for this "cure" to become widely used.  Over 2 million sailors lost during that time, when all they needed was the juice of a lemon or the taste of an orange...

Might Vitamins make a difference in Pancreatic Cancer treatment?  Is the Cure staring us in the face?  Vitamins... Would that they could, a whisper of prayer... the promise of Hope.

Knowing that we cannot allow centuries to pass before that cure is found!

In Grace, Always,

Friday, October 24, 2014

Immunotherapy, Vaccines...and Clinical Trials

Digging in Deep today, so hold on to your ride... we've got a lot to cover.

I think we can all agree that Pancreatic Cancer is one of the most deadly of all cancers.  We've talked pancreatic cancer statistics before... and they are just plan terrifying. 

It's imperative to find new therapies and treatments that will extend and save the lives of those impacted by this disease. 

It is the heartbeat of this daughter.  I would give anything to have my mom back, whole and healed.

The missing is a pain I live with everyday.  And I lay that hurt firmly at the door of pancreatic cancer. 

There is a cure.  We must find it.  My prayer is that those reading this blog will be on the healing end of that journey...  whether it's a traditional treatment or an alternative therapy, or a combination of both... healed and whole is the goal...

Which brings us to the finding of that cure.  I wish it was as easy as pulling a rabbit out of the hat.  But, unfortunately, the wheels of medicine and science turn much slower than that.

Enter the Clinical Trial.   It is the way new treatments run the gauntlet.  Either they make it thru or they fizzle in the trying. 

And this is the infuriating part.  The ones that show promise, a.k.a. the treatments that seem to be working in the fight, well, we still have to wait for the FDA to approve their use.  It's a waiting that sometimes takes months, if not years for promising therapies to get approved...

Pancreatic Cancer Patients do not have months to wait for promising treatments. Period.

They are needed now.

And so, it is a difficult thing for me to include these next treatments here.  For you to read about.  When they are not widely available for treatment.

Seems more than cruel.  But it is also the spring of Hope that Help is on the Way...

There are two treatments to discuss today.  They waffle between traditional and alternative.  In one sense they are traditional, dealing with medical and biological science.  On the other hand they don't fall easily into either the chemotherapy or radiation camp of conventional cancer treatment.  So, we'll discuss them based on merit alone, irregardless of what camp they fall into...

Back to the two treatments...two treatments that seem to go hand in hand.  Treatments that are right now in promising clinical trials, one that has even made the fast-track breakthrough designation thru FDA...

Stick with me when the definitions and medical jargon make your eyes glaze over.  There's a point where it all comes together... Promise.

So the two treatments... Immunotherapy and Vaccines

Immunotherapy is the treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune (or defense) system in our bodies to fight disease.

Vaccines are products that stimulate a person's immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease and protect that person from said disease.

See where they're going here?  Immunity against Pancreatic Cancer.

To be immune to pancreatic cancer means that you can be exposed to it, in other words, your wayward pancreas can go all postal and try to grow cancer, but still you will not get pancreatic cancer.

Got your attention?  Yes?!  Sounds unbelievably good.  (Skepticism kicking in, but hang with me...)

One new treatment uses a "powerful new technology in genetic engineering that turns our own immune cells into 'specially trained assassins' capable of finding, attaching, and eliminating pancreatic cancer tumors."  Source:  Cancer Research Institute 

And then it goes and gets so very complicated in terms of medical lingo... So, my simple version is this...

The doctors have found a way to turn our T-cells on and give them orders to find and kill the pancreatic cancer cells.  I know, I know... sounds like a Sci-Fi thriller.  But it has shown promising results with leukemia patients and now the immunotherapy clinical trial is working on pancreatic cancer.

(p.s... T-Cells are types of white blood cells that are at the core of our immune responses. They're the good guys!)

Another new treatment in clinical trials right now is called The CRS-207 and GVAX trial.

Right?  It's all alphabet soup, but what does it mean... that's what I really want to know!

So, again, simple, simple...

The alphabet code names stand for two difference anti-cancer vaccines, CRS-207 and GVAX.  When given in sequence the combination essentially trains the body to recognize and attack pancreatic tumors.  The GVAX vaccine, developed by Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee, was designed to "reprogram" tumors to include immune system T-cells (the good guys) which are then able to fight the cancer from within.

Working in the same vein, researchers from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that a combination of the GVAX vaccine and a low-dose chemotherapy may have made the pancreatic cancer more susceptible to the effects of immunotherapy.  This is a rather important finding because pancreatic cancer tumors are considered by many in the medical field to be other words not very receptive to the immunotherapy idea.  For a more in-depth study of this therapy, you can read the article in its entirety here.

Are you eyes glazing over yet?

Well, to make a long story even longer, the CRS-207/GVAX trial has actually received a breaththrough therapy designation from the FDA for its potential as a treatment for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.  The FDA made this designation based on the very promising results from a phase II clinical study.  In this study patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer lived an average 46% longer than those not given the trial vaccine/immunotherapy...

Does that mean we've found the cure??? Stop the presses and all that?!

I'm not jumping on that bandwagon yet... This treatment is still in its infancy.   But, oh, the possibilities.

Can you feel the Hope?

And yet, much of what I have shared today can only be found in the Clinical Trials.

So...the question begs... When are Clinical Trials Recommended?  I mean, let's say you have been given the horrifying diagnosis of pancreatic cancer... when do you stay the line with traditional treatments?  When do you take the leap and commit to a clinical trial?

The Cancer Research  Institute addresses this very issue for pancreatic cancer patients:

"Because of the poor prognosis and the lack of effective treatment options, for pancreatic cancer a clinical trial is nearly always preferred over existing treatment options for everything except localized tumors that can be removed surgically.  Specifically, pancreatic cancer patients are encouraged to participate in clinical trials:

* As adjuvant treatment after surgery for local disease
* When pancreatic cancer returns after surgery
* For unresectable disease (inoperable), when patient is in good condition
* After first-line treatment for locally advanced cancer of metastatic, if the patient has good performance status"

The Cancer Research Institute offers a Clinical Trial Finder that helps patients find current clinical trials of immunotherapies for pancreatic cancer that are currently enrolling patients.
Praying that you are not overwhelmed by so much information on the newer immunotherapies and cancer vaccines.  It is a lot to swallow isn't it?!

This is where information overload can de-rail a person fast.

My enouragement to you right now?  Take a Grace Break or two... decisions are made best after Peace has descended to calm your heart and spirit...

Lifting you up in Grace this day, Always,

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Ketogenic Diet... and a Very Important Update

Are you sensing a theme here?

The Budwig Diet

The Gerson Therapy Diet

The Ketogenic Diet

It would seem that the predominant alternative pancreatic cancer treatments are diets.

But perhaps "diet" is too simplistic of a term to describe these protocols.  Each therapy or "diet" is devoted to destroying the cancer's ability to grow, hence reversing the pancreatic cancer in its tracks.

Each therapy ascribes to a specific goal.

The Budwig Diet believes that a deficiency of Essential Fatty Acids is the root of the cancer and aims to rectify that deficiency thru a strict diet including the daily addition of Flaxseed Oil and Cottage Cheese.

The Gerson Diet rests on the premise that our bodies natural, immune-system is the perfect healing machine and the goal is to restore our bodies to their full healing potential thru a rigorous plant-based, juicing, coffee enema, and all natural supplement diet.

And today we have The Ketogenic Diet.

This "diet" in essence is built to starve out the cancer cells.  The belief is that cancer cells thrive in a high sugar environment... So, the Ketogenic diet calls for the patient to remove all sugars and reduce carbohydrates to a minimum, then replace them with healthy fats and proteins.  The patient's body then adapts from using the sugars (glucoses) to using ketone for energy.  Cancer cells lack this ability, so when you remove their sugar "fuel" they actively starve themselves to death.  A definite Win for the Pancreatic Cancer Patient!

But does it work?   That would be the million dollar question...

This diet came to my attention several years ago.  It was in the months following mom's passing.  I so wish she had been alive to discuss the possibilities surrounding this diet.

In August of 2012 I shared about the Ketogenic Diet here on the blog...

"Could something as simple as a change in diet really make a difference in the pancreatic cancer fight?

I'm not sure, but there's a growing tide of interest in the Ketogenic Diet.   As you can read in this link, the ketogenic diet is not for the faint of heart.  Removing all sugar, carbohydrates and fruit from your diet is severe in the extreme.


If it worked?  Can you imagine?  If a diet could slow or even stop the progression of the disease?

Mom suffered thru the harsh realities of radiation and chemotherapy.  I think she could have handled the deprivation of sugar... that seems like a walk in the park compared to the brutal side-effects of the current traditional therapies. 

And yet, I'm always cautious.  Claims that seem to good to be true... And so, I invite you to visit with Martin.  He's an amazing gentleman, husband and father.  He also just happens to have pancreatic cancer.  He is documenting his journey on a blog called Fighting Pancreatic Cancer.   And fighting he is.  With all that is at his disposal.  One of his weapons is the Ketogenic Diet.  If you are at all interested in this diet, I encourage you to read through some of his experiences here and here.

As you can see, Martin is using the diet in conjunction with many traditional medical treatments.  This is the premise behind a new study at The Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa.  This clinical trial is currently recruiting participants.  They are seeking to answer the question: 

"Can a ketogenic diet exploit a fundamental flaw in cancer cell metabolism and increase the effectiveness of treatment for non-small cell lung and pancreatic cancer? They are working off the premise that relative to normal cells, cancer cells require more glucose to overcome a defect in their mitochondrial metabolism. The high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet deprives cancer cells of glucose and forces them to rely on their flawed mitochondrial metabolism. This causes oxidative stress in the cancer cells and appears to make them more susceptible to chemotherapy and radiation. This clinical trial has been funded to investigate whether this diet can improve outcomes for patients with these cancers."

 As always, I strongly encourage you to talk with your healthcare provider or oncologist before leaping into a new diet.  But if you are even a tiny bit interested...

Seriously, have we got anything to lose? 

Except possibly those loathsome cancer cells..."

In the ensuing 2 years since that post, I have continued to research and here is a Very Important Update...

Shortly after writing the above post, I was heartbroken to learn that Martin had lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.

He believed in the Ketogenic method and truly seemed to respond in the beginning, but to no avail.  Hopes were crushed that maybe, perhaps, surely, he was on to something... 

Since then, I have stumbled across other assessments of the Ketogenic Diet for the cancer fight.  One of those concerned about its use is Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, who is a strong proponent of natural, holistic treatments for the cancer patient.

Here he is in a video discussing the Ketogenic Diet.  If you are considering the Ketogenic Diet, please listen to this interview carefully...

Dr. Gonzalez obviously does not believe that the Ketogenic Diet is a viable option for the cancer patient and his concern is grounded... As he says, There is no data to support the success of the ketogenic diet to defeat cancer long-term.

Discouraged?  Me too... the Ketogenic Diet sounds very plausible on a scientific level, but where are the long-term survivors?  I have searched and searched and can find no credible pancreatic cancer survivors that have used this diet...

In this case, "Survivors Trump Science"
                                                   ~ Chris Wark

So what's a pancreatic cancer so-journer to do?  Get back up, dust the dirt from our knees and keep on moving... Forward, always Foward...  Is the Ketogenic Diet a complete wash?  Maybe, maybe not.  I wait with you for a clear testimony to its long term effectiveness.  Then, perhaps, the Ketogenic Diet can make a claim towards the healing of pancreatic cancer.

Until then, we're moving forward in the Journey...

In Grace, Always,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Gerson Therapy

As I have researched Alternative Pancreatic Cancer Treatments, one of the therapies I run across often is The Gerson Therapy.

It is not available in the United States and is also not well received by the physicians in the US.  During mom's pancreatic cancer journey we never even heard of the Gerson Therapy, so understandably, mom did not have any experience with this particular treatment.

However, having said that, I feel honor-bound to offer it as a viable option for those seeking alternative options to battle their pancreatic cancer.

The Gerson Therapy is a natural treatment, and does not rely on dangerous chemotherapy drugs for it's curative benefits.  The proponents of this therapy say it is designed to activate the body’s extraordinary ability to heal itself through an organic, plant-based diet, raw juices, coffee enemas and natural supplements.

Check out this informative page for a basic, easy-to-understand run-down on the Gerson Therapy. 

Could it really be possible to heal the body of pancreatic cancer?  Heal it through a return to a truly healthful, plant-based diet?

Almost sounds to good to be true, doesn't it?  (Hence, my skepticism...hmmmm)

It also is a viable option in my opinion because it does not appear to cause any harm (even if it doesn't cure the cancer).  When mom was considering alternative treatments, her one comment was "first do no harm."  I believe she was very cautious about alternative medicine because so many treatments actually can cause more harm than the disease.

The Gerson Therapy was developed by a German doctor, Max Gerson.  He used a special diet regimen to treat tuberculosis patients and had good success.  When he moved to the United States he gradually began to treat more and more cancer patients that came to him after all traditional treatments had failed.  Slowly he perfected the Gerson Therapy and if the stories are to be believed, he has had tremendous success curing patients of many cancers, including even pancreatic cancer.

He was challenged repeatedly by the traditional medical establishment in the United States and was ultimately shut down here in the States.  His work continues on thru his daughter, Charlotte Gerson and there are 2 inpatient clinics licensed to practice the full Gerson Therapy:  one in Mexico and one in Hungary.

These clinics are not cheap, nor are the treatments usually covered by standard insurance programs.

As I researched the Gerson Therapy, I understandably found the critics... reports that the Gerson Therapy was nothing more than good old-fashioned quackery.

I found one website devoted to analyzing the claims of alternative treatments and they had also researched the Gerson Therapy...  Their findings were somewhat disappointing and inconclusive. And in 2010, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) declared they could find no evidence of usefulness for the Gerson diet. You can read here to see their entire report.

Our website has received a lot of mail through the past 3 years.  Interestingly enough, we have only received 1 note about the Gerson Therapy...

Have you ever heard of the Gerson Therapy? My father was diagnosed December 2011 with pancreatic cancer (4.2 cm X 2.7 cm in the head) which had also spread to the stomach (2.4 cm X 1.7 cm), wrapped around themain veins, 3 lesions in the lungs (0.6 cm each).  He was given 5-7 months and in 8 months the stomach and lung tumors were gone and themain tumor had reduced in size!  He is still doing the diet.  It is the only therapy that has cured pancreatic cancer with patients living cancer free 20+ years later.  Ashley

This testimony would be the only personal experience we have had with the Gerson Therapy.  It would be my earnest prayer that this treatment does indeed work as well as Ashley shares.

If you Google the Gerson Therapy you will come across many, many opinions.  Some positive, some negative...

There are two stories that I found had some merit worth mentioning.

One is an interview with a Pancreatic Cancer Survivor named Kay.  Her story is interesting for many reasons and I would encourage you to watch the whole video interview below.  Kay was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer and underwent months of traditional treatment including several types of chemotherapy.  Her introduction to the Gerson Therapy was through the insistence of a freind.

Here is her story:

The second is a journal kept by Jess Ainscough.  She shares honestly and very eloquently about her 2 year journey with the Gerson Therapy.

Jess doesn't suffer from pancreatic cancer...her cancer is a rare form of skin cancer called epithelioid sarcoma.  When doctors told her the only chance to survive was surgery and aggressive chemotherapy, she began her research and ended up at the Gerson Institute.  But even though her cancer is not pancreatic, her story is worth reading to get an idea of what the actual therapy is like at the Gerson Clinic and what the demanding routine will entail.

These are just a few of the positive reviews for the Gerson Therapy.  There are just as many negative reviews.

Do I know for certain that the Gerson Therapy will work for you?

Sadly, no... That is the hardest part about this journey.  It seems to work for some, if the above stories are to be believed.  But these cancer survivors are quick to remind us that it doesn't work for everyone...

If you are considering using The Gerson Therapy to treat your pancreatic cancer, there are a few things you should consider...

First of all, it does not mean a complete break from all traditional treatments.  The Gerson Therapy does allow radiation therapy in conjunction with treatment, if the radiation is used appropriately and judiciously.

However, the Gerson Institute has said that chemotherapy must NOT be used during the Gerson Therapy.  Nor do they feel the therapy is as effective on pancreatic cancers after being treated with chemotherapy (although Kay's story above seems to dispute always know that one person's results are not necessarily the standard in treatment successes...)

Perhaps this is one of the most critical reasons I have felt the need to write this series on Mapping the's so important to look at all your options before you make crucial decisions on a treatment plan for your pancreatic cancer.  Determining what type of treatment you will pursue affects each succeeding step you take.

The Gerson Therapy... Another option in the fight to find a cure for pancreatic cancer.  Because we need options in this very deadly fight.  Traditional treatments have a well-documented, but distressingly dismal track record in offering hope for the pancreatic cancer patient.  Is it any wonder that we are continually searching for a better way?!

Journeying forward in Hope and Battling through in Grace, Always,

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Budwig Diet Protocol

The first on our list of Alternative Pancreatic Cancer treatments is the Budwig Diet Protocol.

We call it the Flaxseed Oil and Cottage Cheese Diet...

And I'm going to start this series off by saying that we don't have any personal testimonies to share with most of these treatments.  I so wish I did.  I would love to tell you that you MUST try this.  Your cancer will hate it!

But... all I have to go on is the testimony of people I have never met.  In my more cynical moments I have a tendency to doubt all the miracle promises.  Because, truly, if this was the miracle for curing pancreatic cancer wouldn't everyone be on the band wagon?  Like, why doesn't my doctor know about this?!!  Hello... I'm dying here... Is he holding out on me?! 

Well, you get the gist.  I get a little dramatic.

However, there is a part of me that does believe some of the explanations... most alternative treatments or therapies are natural... the Big Pharmaceutical companies can't make a dime on them.  (More cynical moments on my part.)  I'm thinking that if the Drug Companies can't make money on the alternative treatments then I'm assuming they won't be promoting them, hence the doctors won't be prescribing them...

So no miracle pancreatic cancer treatments...


What if the cure for pancreatic cancer really did lie in a deficiency in our bodies? 

A scientist in Germany wondered the same thing.  Her name was Dr. Johanna Budwig and out of her research she developed a diet aimed at correcting the unhealthy balance in our bodies.

Her diet protocol has been in use for several decades and according to her followers it has been very successful in helping reverse many types of tumors, even pancreatic cancer tumors.

Dr. Budwig’s research centered on the important role of essential fatty acids in our body. They are called essential because they are critical to good health. We all need essential fatty acids, but our body doesn’t make them. We have to eat them or include them in our daily diet.

Did you get that?   We have to eat essential fatty acids in our daily diet because our body doesn't make them.

Essential fatty acids are found in vegetables, fish, seeds and nuts. There is one thing about these oils though. They will spoil quickly if left in the heat or sunlight for any length of time. So the food industry has developed ways to chemically alter the oils to give them a longer shelf life. These new chemically altered essential fatty acids are turned into harmful, processed oils that are now called hydrogentated or partially hydrogentated fats and oils.

Another news flash... The "new" processed oils or hydrogenated oils are not good for our body.

Dr. Budwig realized that because most people were now consuming the new processed oils (harmful), they were not eating the good essential fatty acids that the body needs.  She found that many people were becoming deficient in two particular essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6. Both of these fatty acids play a big role in protecting our bodies from cancer.

Our bodies use these essential fatty acids, mostly the omega-3, to line and protect the cell membranes. Each and every cell membrane in our body. When we don’t have enough essential fatty acids, the cells are “unprotected.”

Dr. Budwig proposed that there is very likely a connection to the deficiency of essential fatty acids and cancer. She believed that cancer was a result of not “too much” cell growth, but of “faulty” cell growth. When the cells tried to grow and divide, there wouldn’t be enough of the essential fatty acids to completely cover the new cell, so it would remain in the mother cell, but with a full set of new chromosomes. Not normal. Cells gone awry. Cancer potential.

The omega-6 essential fatty acid is primarily used in the production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is essential for carrying oxygen to all the cells. Again, critically important to our good health.

Starting to see the significance of essential fatty acids yet? Our body doesn’t make them. We have to eat them. But many of us are deficient in these good essential fats.

Enter Dr. Budwig's Diet Protocol to increase the good essential fatty acids and remove the harmful hydrogenated oils...

Flaxseed Oil and Cottage Cheese Recipe

1 cup cottage cheese
4 tablespoons flaxseed oil (actually started out with 2 tablespoons and worked up)

Mix with blender until oil disappears.  Then add:

Now once the FO and CC are well mixed grind 2 Tbps of whole flaxseeds and add to the mixture. Please note that freshly ground flax seeds must be used within 20 minutes after being ground or they will become rancid. Th - See more at:
2 tablespoons whole flaxseed, freshly ground
frozen strawberries to taste
1 teaspoon honey, we actually added a little more to sweeten mixture up

Mix all together in blender and refrigerate in covered container. Eat small portions throughout the day.

Here’s why Dr. Budwig combined these two very different products into one diet. She found that the body absorbs the natural essential fatty acids best when combined with a sulfur-based protein. Flaxseed oil is an extremely rich source of both the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Cottage cheese is a perfect sulfur-based protein. Put the two together and there you have the basics for the Flaxseed Oil and Cottage Cheese Diet.

If you are considering trying this diet, there are just a few more things to know:

- only use unrefined, cold-pressed flaxseed oil that is sold in a dark, light-blocking bottle and kept refrigerated at all times. I found the Barleans brand at our local health food store.

- always mix the oil and cottage cheese together in a blender or mixer to ensure the essential fatty acids are binding with the sulfur-based proteins.

- when on the flaxseed oil and cottage cheese diet, Dr. Budwig did have some dietary restrictions. She recommended cutting out all animal fats, salad oils, margarines and even butter from your diet, as well as any unrefined sugar, although she allowed unsweetened grape juice and honey. I’ll be honest, we didn’t get quite that restrictive, but in order to be fair and give the diet a chance these are the suggestions she makes.

- start slow at the beginning. Increase the amount of oil gradually. As you know, pancreatic cancer can drastically affect the normal digestive process. Adding in a sudden, huge dose of oils, even good ones, can cause stomach upset. So start slow.

Mom was able to sample the Flaxseed Oil and Cottage Cheese Diet, but we found this information too late in her pancreatic cancer journey to really tell if it made any difference.  We shared her experience on our website here.

If you are interested in learning more about the Budwig Diet Protocol, check out The Budwig Center Website.  You can read some of their actual testimonials here.

And as always, please check with your healthcare team before beginning any new treatment, diet or protocol...

Join us as we continue to pursue Alternative Pancreatic Cancer Treatments as we walk through our series  Mapping the Journey.

Graced to Journey Together,

Monday, October 20, 2014

Back Roads and the Journey Less Traveled...

This past weekend found us traveling north for The Auction...

Hearts were tense, treading on tender ground.  We knew the emotions we would face as we headed for home...

And so rather than taking the direct route, miles and miles of interstate, Farmer Husband mapped our travel through the Back Roads of Missouri across the Grand Mississippi in the quaint town of Hannibal... It took our minds off the impending work of the coming weekend and provided an anchor of peace to our tattered souls...

The colors were marvelous... the old towns full of character... so much better than the monotous droning of the interstate.

It was an Alternative Route.  And it took us from Point A to Point B just as the Traditional Interstate Route, but oh the sights we saw on our Back Road trip...

 Perhaps we can begin to think of the Alternative Treatments for pancreatic cancer in the same light. 

Not everyone wants to journey the Back Roads.   Some are perfectly content traveling down the smooth interstate. 

For the next week, our journey takes us to the Alternative Treatments...

Alternative treatments are therapies that extend outside of the normal practices of conventional medicine. Some patients use these therapies in place of the traditional treatments.  And some patients are deciding to integrate these alternative treatments in with their traditional treatment plan for what they consider to be a more well-rounded approach.

I have divided the alternative treatments into two groups.  This is not's simply Jane's way of sorting out all the confusing information out there.

I feel that there are alternative curative treatments and alternative supportive therapies.

For example... the Budwig Diet Protocol claims to be a real solution to curing disease... I would classify this as an alternative curative treatment.  But using Barley Life supplements to help maintain blood counts during chemotherapy would be considered an alternative supportive therapy.

We've been pretty honest on the didn't try very many of the alternative treatments.  The traditional route fit her medical background and she felt "comfortable" with that choice.  But she did try a few of the holistic suggestions, we'll explore those this week too.

And finally, as we explore these alternative therapies, please, please remember this... Before you attempt any new treatment on your own, we encourage you to talk it over with your doctor and cancer team. I strongly urge you to consider all alternative treatments very carefully.  It is true that food-derived antioxidants, minerals and even essential fatty acids play an important role in our health. Making the decision to eat a particular food or natural product for benefit should be done only after much research. The information we are discussing here is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from a health care professional. It should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or construed as a prescription of a medication or other treatment.

We're heading down some Back Roads on this Journey.  Join me?   You never know what we'll find around the next bend...

In Grace, Always,

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pit Stop Sunday...HOPE

There are many things we need when we walk the pancreatic cancer journey, but none more than Hope.
Breath in deep and watch this beautiful music video
that just speaks Hope to Hurting Hearts...
May you find Hope turning her face to you this day,
wherever your journey has taken you...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Finding a Chink in the Armor...

Before I leave the topic of Traditional Pancreatic Cancer Treatment, I would love to share about a relatively new test that is beginning to gain traction in the Pancreatic Cancer World...

Molecular Tumor Profiling

This test helps determine which chemo and/or treatment will work best at targeting your specific cancer cells.

So, what exactly is Tumor Molecular Profiling???

Every cancer cell has its own pattern of active genes and proteins. Molecular profiling tests for a variety of biomarkers in the DNA of a tissue sample to help better diagnose, stage and treat cancer on an individualized basis.

Not every oncologist offers this type of testing and individualized treatment, but it may be a test worth investigating.  By choosing more effective drugs for your pancreatic cancer treatment, it may be possible to avoid unnecessary toxicity and to target the cancer cells as aggressively as possible from the start.

One example of tumor molecular profiling is the HER1 or the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor.

HER1(also called EGFR) is the protein found on the surface of some cells and to which epidermal growth factor binds, causing the cells to divide. It is found at abnormally high levels on the surface of many types of cancer cells, so these cells may divide excessively in the presence of epidermal growth factor.

Using chemotherapy drugs and other treatments specifically tailored to lower the presence of EGFR in these patients should (in theory) make a significant and positive impact on their prognosis.

In Plain-Jane speak this tumor molecular profiling is a way to find the chink in pancreatic cancer's armor and take advantage of that weakness to stomp the cancer right on out.

As I said, this newer test is not widely available yet, but I did notice that the Cancer Center Treatments of America are beginning to use this test in mapping out an individualized treatment plan for their pancreatic cancer patients.

Praying that other oncology teams will soon begin to follow suit...

The sooner we can identify pancreatic cancer's weaknesses, the sooner we can begin a successful fight for a cure.

Journeying on in Hope, Always,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fainting Students, Bellowing Bulls and the Whipple...

For years I worked with a rural veterinarian.  Loved. It.

Well, actually the poop I could do without... but everything else was my kind of job.  The kind where you get paid to do something you love...

We were a country animal clinic, serving a grand variety of patients from tiny kittens to bellowing bulls.  You never knew what a day might bring... but you could always count on something exciting.  Like the day a box of feral cats got loose in the lobby.  Or the time we had to remove a metal T-post from the chest of an over-zealous colt. 

And of course you could always count on surgery.  Might be a run of the mill neuter or spay surgery on said feral cats (we did catch them, finally, have the scars to prove it!) or pinning the broken leg of the poor cattle dog that ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time...

We participated in the career program at the local high school and each semester the doctors would interview and select several students to interim with us...shadowing the techs, learning from the drs., deciding if the vet profession was the right one for them.

Great Program.  We enjoyed the students immensely, especially the ones who willingly cleaned the poop without nagging!  And every semester we waited to see who would be the first to faint during surgery...

It got to be almost a tradition.  Watching surgery is not for the squeamish.  As a matter of fact, the doctors seemed to relish making these surgeries more yucky and bloody than required just for the effect... and the effect was usually pretty dramatic.

Poor kids... can't imagine why anyone would put up with such "abuse"... except, of course, they were young and invincible, they made us smile...

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, surgery... as in pancreatic cancer surgery.

It's called the Whipple surgery.  Actually it's a pancreatoduodenectomy.  But it was nicknamed the Whipple, after the doctor who first described it, and that's so much easier to say...

As I mentioned before, watching surgery is not for the squeamish.  Well, having the surgery is no picnic either.  The Whipple is one of the most demanding of surgeries.  It is also one of the only traditional pancreatic cancer treatments that can offer a real chance at a "cure."

If the cancer is caught early enough to perform surgery, then statistics show survival rates of 20-40% at the 5 year mark.  Much better than the 5% survival for traditional chemotherapy alone...

But better than statistics are the real life testimonies of pancreatic cancer patients who have had the Whipple Procedure. Mom's pancreatic cancer was considered inoperable because the tumor had wrapped around her portal vein, making it impossible to remove surgery was not in the cards, but we've heard from a handful of pancreatic cancer survivors that have shared their experience with the Whipple surgery.   Perhaps their stories will provide an insight into this most difficult of surgeries...

 It's been 1 year since my whipple surgery was performed at Hackensack University Medical Center in NJ by an amazing surgeon, Dr. Marson Davidson. I was in surgery for 12 straight hours and was kept unconscience for 1 full day after surgery. After successful removal of the tumor and a 10 day hospital stay I was released and sent home to continue the recovery process. After 1 year the only problems I seem to have is I am not breaking down fatty foods properly and have multiple foul smelling bowel movements almost everyday. Imodium helps with this problem. Doc says I should take pancreatic enzymes to solve that issue. The only other issue is fatique and the stomach area is still tender to the touch. Other than those things my surgeon says I am recovering great. He pushed me to 6 month visits now. So far so good. Good luck to all and God Bless.
     ~ Rich

My father was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in late 2004 when he had his gall bladder was removed. His cancer was resectable and the surgery was scheduled after he has sufficiently recovered from the gall bladder procedure. He was 74 and had been in excellent health. He did not smoke or drink.

The procedure took quite a long time to complete (I believe almost 8 hours). I believe it required removing part of his pancreas (head), stomach, bile duct, small intestine and stomach. He spent a couple of days in ICU after the surgery and was moved into a normal hospital room to recover more. Immediately after the surgery he was doing quite well. However, things changed.

About two weeks after the procedure he became very weak and nauseated. He had a very difficult time keeping anything down. He seemed to spend almost all of his time in the bathroom. He had to be hospitalized because he developed a fever and they had to try to get some nutrition into him via IV. He went from around 160 pounds to 105 during his recovery. After a week or so he was sent home. He had to start to eat around 7 very small meals a day and that helped. He really was not put on any meds and started to get better.

However, the process of going back to the hospital occurred roughly every 6 to 8 weeks for the first year. However he slowly regained his strength and his hospital stays after fever were getting shorter and after about 14 months he had recovered about as much as he was going to recover.

Yet, the best part of this was my father then survived until 2010. He lived right at 6 years after diagnosis and Whipple procedure. The quality of his life was very good until the very end and then things went down very quickly.

Unfortunately in the last 6 weeks my (now 82 year old) mother has been diagnosed with non-resectable pancreatic cancer. Her cancer has invaded the portal vein and has spread into the lymph nodes and she will not undergo the Whipple. We have started chemo. It is interesting to note my father never underwent chemo.
     ~ Mark

And then there are two blog/websites that share in much more detail the experience of their Whipple Surgery and subsequent recoveries:

My Whipple Experience


Pancreatic Cancer and the Whipple Procedure

Both sites are full of actual, personal information about the Whipple and are paying forward the gift of gaining their lives back.

It is what we all pray for on this Journey.  Wherever we are, may we see the treasure in each sunrise, knowing it is another day to live life well.

All's Grace Today,  Jane                                     

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Radiation Therapy - Is It Right for Everyone?

Radiation is such a tricky topic.

Too might cause cancer.

Too might not kill the cancer.

Just right... you might find the sweet spot for pancreatic cancer treatment.

We journaled much of mom's radiation experience on the website.  She received what is known as Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy.

But there are several different types of radiation therapies for pancreatic cancer patients.  The best run-down on these treatments that I have found is on the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

They do a great job of explaining all the details of the varied radiation treatments...please, please check out their link on Radiation Therapy.

If you or a loved one is on this pancreatic cancer journey, then chances are your oncology team is already discussing the possibility of radiation.  It may be to try and shrink the tumor before attempting surgery.  It may be to try and stabilize the pancreatic cancer and keep it from growing any larger.  It may be used to try and help alleviate the pain caused by the cancer tumors.

Radiation therapy has a place in traditional pancreatic cancer treatment.  It helped stabilize mom's cancer and actually dropped her tumor markers over 1200 points.  But at a huge cost...

That cost was paid in debilitating side effects.  As always, it is a decision only the patient can make.  And as mom worked through the decisions in her treatment plan, she longed to hear eye-witness stories from others that had gone before her.  Somehow the knowledge of experience might have lent balance to the doctors non-commital "You may have some discomfort."

Discomfort doesn't even begin to describe the misery... making an informed decision involved finding others who had actually gone thru the radiation treatment.  Sometimes life doesn't offer that luxury...

As many of you can attest, it's hard to find someone in your circle of friends who has pancreatic cancer... it's even hard to find someone in your circle who knows someone who has pancreatic cancer! It would be easy to feel desperately alone on this journey...  And mom found this to be true as she started walking through treatment.

She went for the radiation treatment on her doctor's recommendation alone.  She didn't know any other pancreatic cancer patients to call, no one to bounce ideas off of, no one who could answer the hard questions... like how did you really feel?  Was it worth it?  How long did the treatments last?  Was there pain during treatment?  How uncomfortable were you?  And...Would you do it all over again???

So, we went in for the IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) and expected that she may have some "discomfort."

And the first few days were a breeze. We smiled, high-fived, did a little happy dance... this kind of discomfort we can live with... What were we thinking?  Is there anything about cancer treatment that is easy?

After the first week, it went down-hill and fast.

Mom said that it was like a Killer Flu on Steroids.  She was beyond miserable by the end of the 28 day radiation treatment.  

We realized later, much later, that the radiation beams, as specialized as they were, still burnt the lining of her stomach and small intestine.  She was prescribed medicine to help minimize the damage, but it was like whistling into the wind.

She spent the 2 weeks following radiation with her head in the toilet or crawling back to bed...there were nights she pulled her comforter into the bathroom and just gave in to the nightmare that had become her life.

Here's an excerpt from our CaringBridge Journal during that time...

March 28, 2011...
"It's been a few days since our last update.  Well, ok, almost a week.   I'll be honest.  I've been dragging my feet, hoping against hope that the next day will bring better news.  So, the "better" news is that mom didn't throw up yesterday.  It's been 2 weeks since the radiation finished up, so maybe we're making progress....

If you look up radiation sickness, you will find a host of symptoms, chief of which is nausea, vomiting and fatigue.  Mom has those in spades.  It's been a long week. I probably don't need to mention that mom has lost too much weight.  As of this morning she's down almost 20 lbs."

That was one of the lowest valleys in mom's pancreatic cancer journey...enough to make you throw in the towel.  Would she do it again?

She probably would have said NO if asked during those murky dark hours when the radiation was searing her from the inside out....

One month later, she was beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel...

April 28, 2011...
"Tumor Marker results are in.....Drum Roll Please.........
Unbelievably good news!!!!!  So much better than we had dared hope for!!  Cautiously optimistic yesterday....Doing a happy dance today!

To give a little perspective on just how low this is, I looked back at her previous results.  Last November, when she was first diagnosed, the tumor marker test was already at 404.  By February it had sky-rocketed to 1474.  The radiation and 5-FU began to knock it down, and by the end of radiation treatment in March, it was down to 576.  Dr. Hernandez had told us that the radiation continues it's half-life work even after the treatment is complete, and the proof is here:  234.

Cancer fought hard through the radiation and chemotherapy, but Mom fought harder.  This round belongs to her!

And to you, each and every one of you.  Whether you offered a meal, a prayer, a word of encouragement, a ride to the doctor's office, a hug, or a smile.  You played a part, so enjoy the good news with us!!

That's Grace for Today,  Jane

Looking at the Radiation Therapy through the rearview mirror makes it much more possible to see it's worth.  And YES, mom said, at this point, she could see the silver lining in the storm.  She would definitely do it all over again if it meant being able to knock the cancer back like that...

Radiation therapy took mom to death's door and would have pulled her on through if not for her grit and determination to claw her way back to the land of the living...

Is it for every pancreatic cancer patient?  Most definitely always, it's so important to discuss all your options with your healthcare team.  Radiation therapy has a place in pancreatic cancer treatment, but it's not the only option...

Mapping our Journey with the same grit and determination of the many who have gone before us,

In Grace Always,  Jane