At the age of 55, I was in perfect health and terrific physical shape. One day, I experienced a very sharp, intense lightning bolt of pain throughout my entire body. It only lasted for about 5 seconds, but it transitioned into a nagging back pain.
I immediately went to see a doctor, but was sent home with diagnoses of gas, and again with a pulled muscle. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when the pain didn’t go away and I began losing weight unexplainably that I returned to the doctor insisting on more tests. Ultimately, after an advanced endoscopy and a colonoscopy did I hear the words that would change my life forever: “Laurie, you have pancreatic cancer.”
At that point, the pancreatic adenocarcinoma was Stage III and had already spread to my duodenum and lymph nodes- and the survival rate was just 6%. After over three years of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, including the Whipple which is considered the most complicated abdominal surgery in existence, numerous complications, complex therapies, insurmountable side effects, and too many emergency room visits to count, I was told the treatment was no longer effective and to get my affairs together because I had three to six months to live.
I was determined to keep fighting and found another doctor through the recommendation of good friends, and he started me on an IV chemotherapy drug, ceftriaxone (Rocephin). This treatment would require me to come to the hospital every day, twice a day, for thirty days, with an IV administered for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. I figured if I only had three months to live, I most definitely did not want to spend them in a hospital. I asked my doctor if I could learn to administer the treatment myself so I could continue living my life, stay active and do the things I loved, like riding my bike in the mountains of Colorado.
The treatment was successful and today I am cancer free and feeling great! Mindset and attitude is what helped me overcome this chapter of my life. Throughout my journey I was tested and pushed to my physical and emotional limits, but I learned a lot about this disease and myself, and the power of positive thinking is crucial! I want patients to know that there is hope, they don’t have to give up just because they’ve been diagnosed.
Today I travel the country delivering motivational speeches and interacting with volunteers, patients, researchers, pharmaceutical professionals, experts in the medical and wellness communities and professional corporations. I am also a volunteer, fundraiser, and lobby Congress for increased medical research funding, as well as a Personal Patient Advocate working one on one with patients. I am committed to ensuring that others traveling this journey have a “translator” in their midst – offering guidance and most importantly hope.
I am on a mission to inspire people, give them hope, and give them the courage to be their own advocate through any adversities in life!!