“Adventure, explore, and LIVE through adversity.”
Bryan Monahan was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in January of 2017. He is fighting his disease. He shares his journey on his blog to raise awareness”
“I was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in January of 2017”
“In October of 2016 I was admitted into a hospital for abdominal pain. I spent three days in the hospital and it was determined that I had pancreatitis. I was treated in the usual way for pancreatitis, liquid only diet intravenously.
In December of 2016, once again I was admitted into the hospital for the same symptoms, and it was determined that had pancreatitis again.
As I have smoked for 30 years, starting when I was 15, cancer was always on our mind with regard to pancreatitis. We asked several times if the pancreatitis was related to cancer, and doctors said no, it was acute pancreatitis. We asked how pancreatitis came about, we were told that it was idiopathic.
In December, after CT scans, MRI, and ultrasounds, we advocated for my health and demanded an endoscopic ultrasound. It was during that procedure that the surgeon found a 2 centimetre tumor in my pancreas. In addition, it was discovered that I had a 6″ blood clot that affected my portal vein that in itself could have killed me if not for the collateral veins that formed to bypass the clot.
Immediately, my wife contacted the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota and scheduled an appointment with gastroenterology and oncology.
The following week, we met with one of the leading oncologists in the state of MN and a plan was devised to treat the tumor. Part of the plan was to determine if I was operable or not and as fate would have it, one of the leading pancreatic surgeons at Mayo and in the state had a cancellation in his schedule and we were able to slide into an appointment with him.
After consultation, and considering the portal vein and more importantly the collaterals that were formed, it was determined that I was not a surgical candidate.
I began a regimen of FOLFIRINOX for about 3 months followed by daily radiation for 17 weeks after which it was determined I was in remission! At that point, appointments were scheduled for maintenance, and monitoring of the tumor.
In April of this year, during a routine check-up, blood work indicated my CA 19-9 was elevated from its baseline. A CT scan as well as a PET Scan was scheduled to examine the tumor and it was determined that the tumor was active again.
Immediately following the results of the CT and PET, I began a regiment of Gemsar and Abraxane chemo treatment, and continue to this day with those treatments, 2 weeks on, 1 week off.
I am still not surgical. My cancer is terminal. This prognosis came with an expected life span of 5-12 months to live.
I’ve already outlived my original prediction of 6 months, and I intend to outlive this suggested life span as well. I don’t pay attention to the predictions – I can’t.”
Motivation to fight cancer
“First, my son is 10 years old. He doesn’t deserve to be without a father. He and I have milestones that I need to be there for. He’s my primary motivation for life. Next, my daughter and wife. My daughter just graduated high school and is now in college. I need to see her finish college, get married, and have kids… My wife and I have life events to accomplish as well. We love to travel and there are still many trips and memories to be made. Lastly, I’m only 47. I have a lot of life to live yet and plenty of memories to be made.
Additionally, pancreatic cancer has too many unknowns and funding is critical to decreasing mortality. Pancreatic cancer is the #5 deadliest form of cancer. Typically when someone finds out they have PC, their chances of survival are somewhere between 5 and 7% – living longer than 5 years. In 2017, ~ 40k diagnosis were made. Of that 40k, 35k died of PC prior to the 5 year mark. The 5k that survived – some lived longer than 5 years, but most died within 10 years. Funding and research MUST be increased to curtail the number of cases and deaths caused by this horrible disease in particular.
I’m making it my mission to be the voice of PC awareness, promotion of funding and research through my efforts. I’m still here – I believe it’s for advocacy that I am.”
“The chemo I receive, while not nearly as bad as the FOLFIRINOX in 2017, is cumulative. Side effects are different such as hair loss, aches, pains, and particularly bad stomach issues brought on not only from the treatment but the condition.
Time is the single biggest hindrance in accomplishing my bucket list items and long term goals.
The truth is, I will die from pancreatic cancer. It’s not a question of if, but when – but I don’t focus on dying – my focus is on living, educating people about pancreatic cancer, and promoting funding specifically in the area of pancreatic cancer research.
Message to other cancer patients
“A cancer diagnosis does not mean you stop living your life. It means the choices you make in life and how you live it become more important.”
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