The Day I Found Out I Have Pancreatic Cancer - Part 1
I am very excited about my new venture at this stage in my life. Launching my website www.lauriemaccaskill.com and pursuing motivational speaking opportunities. In an effort to help others, I am passionate about sharing my journey as an 11-year survivor of pancreatic cancer. Something I once thought insignificant has proven to be an inspiration for many enduring a challenging journey. I am optimistic about endless possibilities and am grateful for the love and support of so many friends in helping to make this possible.
Studies show that writing about oneself and your personal experiences can improve your mood, reduce symptoms in cancer patients, reduce doctor visits, and improve memory. I hope these stories will help you better understand how grit, determination, a positive attitude and asking for support are invaluable tools for overcoming any circumstance.
The First Sign
In April 2006, I was in New York getting ready for a party. As I bent over to put on my heels, a sharp, intense pain, starting at the top of my head traveled though my entire body feeling much like an electric shock. This lasted for only five to seven seconds, but it took my breath away and I almost passed out. What remained was a dull ache on one side of my lower back, about the size of a tennis ball. I went to the party, enjoyed myself and didn’t give it another thought. until the next morning when I was race walking, at a fast pace, with friends in Central Park. I complained that I could not go very fast because of a backache. They said it was probably due to the heels I wore the night before. I felt fine except for a dull ache in my lower back, which was constant, often debilitating but mostly just annoying. Five days later, I returned to my home in Los Angeles and decided to see a doctor, as the pain had not subsided. Other than mammograms and annual check-ups, I don’t frequent doctors so didn’t know who to see. I found a noted sports doctor who, after taking x-rays and examining me said I had gas, take an enema and I would be fine. I knew this was not gas but did as he instructed.
The pain never ceased and an examination by my internist did not provide comfort. Another doctor performed blood tests with additional x-rays and his diagnosis was a pulled muscle. It was recommended that I stop exercising. I was so frustrated with the constant pain and no reasonable explanations. I know body; this was very unusual and not caused by an awkward movement nor was it my imagination, which was implied!
Shortly thereafter, an ulcer was diagnosed, antibiotics were prescribed and I was relieved to think this was the cause of the back pain. However, the doctor said that there was no correlation. I was baffled to hear I had an ulcer, as I had never experienced any abdominal pain or bloating. I went back to exercising, my appetite was normal, but the back pain was persistent and had intensified.
Two Months of Tests and Still No Diagnosis
Because I have always been so healthy, I really thought it was a simple infection and an antibiotic would clear this up. The thought of cancer never entered my mind as a possibility. It was now June, two months after the initial pain. I was frustrated and in constant pain although I managed a fairly normal schedule. I had just returned from a European trip where I hiked 16 miles a day despite the pain and had a healthy appetite. I was losing weight, but when is that ever a problem for a female?!
I finally asked for a scan and if insurance wouldn't pay for it, I would. I had never had a scan so didn’t know what I was requesting – an MRI or CAT scan? At this point, I didn’t care. I wanted an answer. An endoscopy was performed a few days later. My husband and I were in Denver driving to Aspen for the 4th of July weekend, when my doctor called to tell my husband the results. He thought we were in Los Angeles and was reluctant to delivery the news to me over the phone. I was in disbelief at what I heard next.
"Laurie, I'm So Sorry. You Have Pancreatic Cancer."
Next I heard the words, “Laurie, I am so sorry. You have pancreatic cancer.” I said, “I do not. That is a death sentence. You have the wrong file.” Of course we were shocked and in disbelief. I was numb and really didn’t understand the implications. I knew nothing about the disease and barely knew what the pancreas did. What was I supposed to do now?