Excerpts from a friend's email "I wanted to ask you a question about one of your recent blogs. You had mentioned that you saw signs. It sounded like they were very minor, but signs nonetheless. Many of the sights that talk about this cancer call it the silent cancer because usually there is no warning. I'm wondering if you could share some of the things you did see. Hope that's not getting too personal, it just could be information that could help someone else. "
I did learn a significant amount about Pancreatic Cancer while I lived in the hospital with my wife for 5 weeks. The question above haunted me at first because I thought about "what ifs". But as I read more, I understood Candice's signs were presenting during the late stages of her cancer and that there are no clear signs that a healthy 40 year old women would have Pancreatic Cancer. She did not present pain in the region (abdominal/back) until her last week in the hospital.
I would like to share a video that I watched in the hospital that helped me understand this "silent and deadly" cancer - Pancreatic Cancer. Please watch this video to understand better what we are up against: http://hstalks.com/?t=BL1192756. Also, you can read more about signs at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreaticcancer/overviewguide/pancreatic-cancer-overview-diagnosed
The biggest sign and first sign Candice had was a large blood clot (DVT) in her leg. This was found on December 26th and it ran the length from above her knee down her calf. No tests were run to screen Candice for cancer at the time, but clotting is a sign of Pancreatic cancer (and other cancers). Candice was placed on Lovenox and told that after three months she should come back for a ultrasound. No follow up visit between was recommended. When we inquired about follow up, we were told it was not necessary. I must admit it was a little surprising the response regarding an "unprovoked" blood clot (especially given the size of the clot). Both Candice and I were very concerned going in, but after meeting with the doctor, we felt a little relief. The only recommendation that was made was to see if she had a genetic predisposition to clotting and Candice immediately opted to have these tests to see if this was the cause of the DVT. The doctor did contact her to let her know that she did not have a genetic predisposition.
Other symptoms included: uncontrollable chills/shaking for several hours each evening and then followed by significant sweats where she actually wrapped herself in towels each night (these were likely malignancy fevers as it turned out and the sweats occurred when she was breaking her fevers). These continued in the hospital sometimes multiple times a day. Candice had extreme lethargy (She was a very active person who went from moving to sleeping in her spare time), weight loss (I did not notice this because I live with her- but looking at pictures as above, it was clear that she lost weight especially in her face and also in lower body), discoloration of skin (Candice's skin went from flushed, to ashen to jaundice at times). Although we were keenly aware that Candice was not herself, these signs were also associated with side effects of her medication (Lovenox shots).
I do not think that earlier findings would have resulted in saving Candice's life, but I do feel that a little testing after her blood clot was found may have prevented the stroke. Perhaps it is not protocol to do more tests than necessary, but given that this cancer is so deadly and there are so few signs, ruling out cancer for patience with "unprovoked" clots may be something that should be considered.
To some extent, we were somewhat blessed with not knowing sooner because it would have only felt like a death sentence sooner in the year and this news would have likely prevented us from going and enjoying our final trip with my sister, brother-in-law and niece to Disney World in mid-January. This was a magical and connective opportunity for Candice with Sarah and I do not think it would have been fun or special if Candice had the burden of knowing about her cancer. Although she did get wheeled around in a wheel cheer-she rode roller coasters and laughed and loved every minute of it! For this I am thankful.
Side effects that Candice did not have that are often found (in Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer) are: severe back pain and/or abdominal pain.
Note about picture: this was taking February 8th 2014 at the Cambridge Antique Market where Candice and I went for a "fun activity" during a cold winter day. This was the weekend prior to her stroke.