January 10, 2016
Michelle has been seen by a second hospital system, Knight Cancer Institute of Oregon Health & Science University, the top cancer hospital in Oregon. The doctor there feels more confident about making a diagnosis based on past experience both with young adult and with gastrointestinal cancers. She feels that the disease is primary pancreatic cancer, that it is Stage IV (T3 NX M1), and that it is not curable due to metastasis.
Previously, pancreatic cancer was considered a long shot due to (among other things like Michelle's age and health) a very low CA 19-9 tumor marker value, but we have since learned that 10% of Caucasians do not express this antigen and it cannot be used reliably as a marker in those cases. This is part of the explanation for uncertainty earlier.
While we will still be pursuing other opinions, biopsies, genetic testing, and possibly clinical trials, both sets of doctors have recommended that Michelle start chemotherapy as soon as possible to help with symptoms and to learn more. We agree and will be starting treatment at OHSU this week.
The chemotherapy will target pancreatic as well as a range of gynecological cancers, so we should know even more soon based on how the disease responds. Chemotherapy should help with Michelle's pain and other symptoms and should hopefully also help bring some regularity to our scheduling and activity level as a result.
Thank you for all of the well-wishes, prayers, cards, gifts, and other signs of love thus far. While we can't always reply or be available for visits, we do appreciate them and they do help.
We also want to mention that we feel well-supported, and this, combined with top-notch medical care, Michelle's age and health, our commitment to learning and understanding, and our positive thinking, goes a long, long way in helping us to beat the odds.