The Story behind the story - My daddy

On August 5, 2015 my life turned upside down in just one phone call. No, not in the way you would immediately think. My children were perfect, my family was well, our house was still in tact, I was fine, well, sort of. I was told I carried the BRCA2 gene mutation, I was "BRCA2 Positive". I knew this was a possibility but I honestly did not expect it, nor prepare for it.

In order for you to fully understand what flipped me on butt and the events that lead me to get tested, I need to start at the beginning.

So grab a snack and a cup of coffee and get comfy, This is going to be a long one, so long in fact it's being split up into parts...

Part 1 - My Dad -

Ask anyone in my small town and they will tell you my dad was amazing! He was a God-fearing, hard working, Christian man. He was a man who, when he wasn't working shift work at one of the many chemical refineries in our area or working on our small homestead in the country, he was going to school trying to finish his education and be better for his 3 girls and wife. No matter how busy he was he always found time to read us a book, sit down to eat, or wrestle with us on the floor of our living room, and he always had time to bring his family to church. Those are things that I will always cherish and fondly remember about him.

You see, as a kid I think I took his presence for granted, he's my dad, he's invincible like all dads are. As a pre-teen he was the most annoying person on the earth, like all dad's are supposed to be. He was the dad that stood in the driveway with a shotgun when friends, that were boys, would show up to go ride four-wheelers with us in the summer. He was the dad that brought my friends and I "wrapping" when we were in Jr. High. But he was also the dad that had strict rules and morals that we were to live by, that were expected of us, but me as a rebellious 13 year old saw those, and him, as mean and there to ruin my life. Little did I know our lives would change drastically in the next year and how much I would regret.

My dad, you know the invincible one, was diagnosed at the very young age of 38 with Pancreatic Cancer. It took doctors over 5 months to finally make the diagnosis, which by that time it had spread to his liver and neighboring organs, making it Stage 4 Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer. After his 39th birthday he started treatments at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston Texas, 2 hours south of where we lived. I had just started Freshman year of high school and was oblivious to what this diagnosis really meant. My sisters and I were shuffled between family and friends while my parents spent countless hours, days, and even weeks in Houston. We were sheltered from the reality, by well meaning family.  Finally on October 31, 2000 after being in the hospital at MD Anderson for a few days the doctors came in with the inevitable, "There's nothing else we can do." My dad was sent home with Hospice the next day and died at home on December 9, 2000, 40 days after he was sent home. He left behind my mom, his wife of 16 years, my sisters who were 9 and 12, and myself who was 14. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to go through, watching my dad being literally eaten alive by this nasty disease. He went from being 260 pounds to 86 when he died. When I say terrible, I mean TERRIBLE! You know they say when something traumatic happens to you, your mind does a good job of blocking out the entire instance. Well, my mind must of been on point because there are gaps of that entire year I can't recall even now.

The reason it took them so long to diagnose my dad was because they weren't looking for this particular disease. He had a lot of the below symptoms, my mom says, but he was entirely too young to have this type of cancer because the average age of Pancreatic Cancer patients at diagnosis is 70.

Yup, you see that right. He was 30 years younger than the average age of diagnosis.

Here are some symptoms, facts, and statistics of Pancreatic Cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is sometimes called a “silent” disease because symptoms are rarely present in its early stages. Many patients have advanced disease by the time it becomes noticeable to the patient and doctors. If symptoms are present, they are often vague. Patients may experience different symptoms depending on the location, type and stage of the cancer.

Symptoms that commonly lead to diagnosis include: jaundice, abdominal and/or back pain, new-onset diabetes, unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite. A person with advanced pancreatic cancer may also experience ascites (fluid in the abdomen) and blood clots. Symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, digestive difficulties and depression may occur at any time.

For more information regarding pancreatic cancer awareness go here.

Below are some more statistics on Pancreatic Cancer. These were taken from
  • Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially over nearly 40 years.

  • Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.

  • Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. 94% of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis – only 7% will survive more than five years. 74% of patients die within the first year of diagnosis.

  • The average life expectancy after diagnosis with metastatic disease is just three to six months.

  • Few risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer are defined. Family history of the disease, smoking, age, and diabetes are risk factors.

  • Pancreatic cancer may cause only vague symptoms that could indicate many different conditions within the abdomen or gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include pain (usually abdominal or back pain), weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), loss of appetite, nausea, changes in stool, and diabetes.

  • Treatment options for pancreatic cancer are limited. Surgical removal of the tumor is possible in less than 20% of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Chemotherapy or chemotherapy together with radiation is typically offered to patients whose tumors cannot be removed surgically.

  • Pancreatic cancer is a leading cause of cancer death largely because there are no detection tools to diagnose the disease in its early stages when surgical removal of the tumor is still possible.

 You see, these facts and statistics are scary and not very promising even today. Think back to 2000 when my dad was diagnosed and image the statistics then. They were worse.

Although the odds were completely stacked against him, he never, not once, waivered in his faith in God or in his fight. He died fighting and I miss him every. single. day.

 It's because of him I'm even starting this blog to begin with because not only did I get his dark brown hair, his eyes, and his smarts.

He gave me his BRCA2 gene mutation. Because of that, and God's timing, I now have an advantage most people will never get. I can take the bull by the horns so to speak and be in control of my health. Well, God is actually in control but you know what I mean. :)

More to come about my BRCA2 mutation and how I found out. Stay Tuned sweet sweet friends!

No comments