Moving forward from a rough weekend

The past three days were tough ones.  Mom had a couple more
procedures done, and at this point we’re all learning as much about pancreatic cancer as we can.

On May 29, Dr. Baker did a procedure called a percutaneous transhepatic cholangiodrainage (PTCD) with biopsy. He was able to insert a tube in the center of Mom’s abdomen that goes through her liver, down the bile duct toward the pancreas.  He then inserted a drain so the bile that has been backing up the from the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas can drain to a bag outside her body.  He also took a biopsy of the tumor that sits at the head of the pancreas.

Later that afternoon,  Dr. Allen explained that the tumor is about 3×4 cm (medium-sized as he described it) and is located right at the head of the pancreas.  The biopsy showed a mucin Adenocarcinoma tumor which means that it probably started in the pancreas.

This isn’t the news that any of us wanted to hear.  It’s hard to treat pancreatic tumors. The tumor is encroaching on a major blood vessel (the superior mesenteric vein) making surgery very difficult.

Dr. Diggs, the oncologist talked to our whole family on Monday morning.  He said that there are two doctors at the UW Hospital who may be able to do surgery to remove the tumor at this point.  He and Dr. Gibson, the surgeon, are going to send Mom’s films to them this week to see what they think.  If surgery is not possible immediately, the primary treatment will probably be radiation and chemotherapy with the hopes of shrinking the tumor  to the point that it can be removed.

They may also need to do additional endoscopic surgery to implant an internal stent so the bile can drain internally into the intestine.  They’ll also want to do laparoscopic surgery to look for other tumors in the abdomen.

Dr. Gibson kept Mom in the hospital on Monday in case the UW doctors would be able to transfer her directly to the UW on Tuesday. However, this morning they said that they wouldn’t be able to see her until later in the week, so after a mind-bending weekend, she’s back at home as of mid-day on Tuesday.  She has an appointment scheduled on Friday morning with Dr. Webber at the UW.  Hopefully, we’ll know more after that, but who knows, it could be until next week before they run the next set of tests (MRI, catscans, ultrasounds) that need to be done.

It’s been a completely surreal set of days and I know we’re all still trying to absorb information.  The doctors have been very helpful and informative, and I’m glad that Mom gets a chance to be home for a while until we take next steps.

I have lots more details on treatment options, and I’m looking into support systems for families struggling with cancer.  I’m also learning how to talk about this and internalize it to my life.  I know we all are. So this isn’t a fun note to write, but I know that there’s an amazing group of people out there who love Mom and who will be interested in following her condition.  If you have questions, please give me a call.

At this point, we’re glad that there are a variety of treatment options available, and we’re moving forward with a hopeful attitude.
~ Althea