Beating the odds against pancreatic cancer

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - This year over 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Over 35,000 people will die from this aggressive disease. While the numbers are grim, one lake area woman is letting these statistics push her to her best life as she battles cancer.

It's just another day for 60-year-old Faith Blackburn.  Between finishing up Christmas shopping and getting the home ready for the holidays, it's hard to believe that Faith is in the fight for her life after a whirlwind year that got off to a painful start.  "I was having stomach pains and I went to the doctor," she says, "they thought it was an ulcer - so they tried that and it didn't work. They did an ultrasound on the gallbladder, that was not it, had an upper and lower colonoscopy and that showed nothing."

After several inconclusive tests, Faith and her family made the trip to M.D. Anderson for further evaluation. There, a CT scan showed that Faith had stage four pancreatic cancer.  "I was shocked," she says, "I knew nothing about pancreatic cancer."

Because of the location of the pancreas, early detection of cancerous cells is extremely difficult. Even with a CT scan, The Clinic Medical Director of Oncology, Dr. Henry Goolsby, says unless the lesion is a certain size, it can go undetected.  "Even in the best case scenario," he says, "any spots that are smaller than a quarter of an inch we can't see those - and that's millions to billions of cancer cells."

When the Blackburns were told it was stage four, they knew this burden would not be light.  "It was our son who bravely asked the difficult question, 'what's my mom's life expectancy,'" says Faith's husband, Frank, "the doctor quickly stated six months."

According to her initial diagnosis, that six months would have been this past September.  But thanks to chemotherapy, medication and Faith's support system - she's beating the odds.  "I am going to beat this," she says, "I will live with it, but I will not die of it right now. I'm here for a while, so you better get used to it!"

Dr. Goolsby says one positive development is in the works for pancreatic cancer detection.  It has to do with genetic testing for high-risk patients.

*To show your support for those affected by pancreatic cancer, come out to Prien Lake Park in Lake Charles this Saturday, December 5th for Purple Stride Lake Area 2009.  This pet friendly event includes a two mile walk, kid activities, door prizes and more. Everything kicks off at 8:30 A.M.  For more information, click here.

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