Hello and Welcome to PanCan Overland!
My name is Bryan and this is my personal blog/vlog, detailing my journeys, exploration, and adventures. To learn a little more about PanCan Overland, click the "About PanCan Overland" link in the menu or here.
I am 47 years old, I am a husband, a father to my Daughter Haley and my Son, Owen. I am a photographer, adventurist, overlander, off-road enthusiast, environmentalist, avid Jeep owner, former real estate broker and property manager for medical office buildings, an artist, and graphic artist, and love to explore, travel and experience all that life has to offer!
Oh, and I have Pancreatic Cancer...
In November of 2016, I was admitted to the hospital experiencing extreme stomach pain. At the time, local doctors ran all the basic tests and determined I was suffering from Pancreatitis. I spent 4 days in the hospital recovering on a liquid diet - IV fluids.
In December of 2017, I was re-admitted to the hospital for the same symptoms. I had a relapse of Pancreatitis. This time, the same tests we conducted, same diagnoses - only this time it was considered "acute pancreatitis."
I've smoked cigarettes since the age of 15. My wife and I asked doctors if the pancreatitis could be cancer. We were assured that the diagnosis was not related to cancer, but we also felt that the tests that were done weren't enough. We advocated for a Endoscopic Ultrasound, an invasive surgical procedure to physically examine the inner workings of the body with a camera.
We scheduled an Endoscopic Ultrasound for a week later and it was at that time, January of 2018, that my wife and I discovered I have Pancreatic Cancer. The surgeon measured the cancer tumor at about 2 CM located in my pancreas. That equates to roughly stage 2b cancer. The pancreas is an incredibly vascular organ. It produces enzymes to help break down solid food in order to digest it through your system. In general, surgery on the pancreas is very risky in and of itself, having only a small margin of success, and potentially risking death due to bleeding during surgery.
But there was more...
During the endoscopic ultrasound, the doctor found a blood clot in my portal vein measuring about 6" long. That blood clot could have killed me, but a natural defense system in the body created something called collaterals. Collaterals are microscopic emergency veins that formed to re-route blood around the blood clot to serve the organs like the liver and pancreas, spleen, etc. It's like when a major highway system is closed and you need to detour on side streets. The collaterals that formed around the blood clot saved my life without me even knowing it. I was lucky to be alive.
Having learned of the diagnosis of cancer, my wife jumped into action before I could recover form the endoscopic procedure, and scheduled an appointment with doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN for the following week.
After more tests, etc. the plan was to assess if I was surgical during and after receiving a regiment of chemotherapy called folfirinox for several weeks.
To complicate things, The collaterals I mentioned previously, the microscopic veins that formed and helped me survive a huge blood clot - yeah - the life saving collaterals are essentially the reason I am not a candidate for surgery, now, or potentially ever. My Pancreatic Cancer is terminal.
I received the prescribed regiment of folfirinox followed by 17 daily treatments of radiation and by some miracle, doctors determined the tumor was inactive - I was determined to be in remission! This was AMAZING NEWS!
During the time I was in remission, I stopped chemotherapy treatment, reduced to general check-ups and basic monitoring of blood tests, MRI's, CT scans and I resumed life as well as I could. It was great to feel "normal" again.
Fast forward to April, 2018. During a blood test, a tumor marker called the CA-19-9 showed increased tumor activity. The CA-19-9 isn't a direct link to tumor size or spread of cancer - the tumor marker is an indication of something going on with cancer cells. This was concerning considering I was supposed to be in remission.
We quickly scheduled a CT and MRI scan and finally a PET Scan, in which it was determined that my Pancreatic Cancer was active again. I began a regiment of chemotherapy called gemcitabine and abraxane beginning in May, 2018.
Well, I have Terminal Pancreatic Cancer. I'll die of this cancer at some point in the future. When? I don't know really - and I'm not focused on the predicted, suggested time frames that have been given. I've already outlived my original 2017 diagnosis. Doctors gave me 5-7 months to live then. I'm still here. The most current diagnosis is 5-12 months to live but, again, I'm not so focused on the mortality. I can't. Life is too short already, and to live constantly thinking you could die in the next month or 6 or 10 years according to some prognosis is not only exhausting, but unrealistic and detrimental to mental well being and overall quality of life.
Sure, I know at some point the cancer will take over. I'll start losing functionality of various organs, I'll experience more pain or other complications, but until that starts to happen I'm living life to the fullest.
"Adventure Through Adversity". Its a motto I've adopted for the rest of my life. That adventure may be a long and exciting overland trip, or it could be experiencing an amazing opportunity locally, or it could be simply experiencing a milestone with my Daughter or Son. Whatever the "Adventure" I'm living it to the fullest without regret, without contemplation of the inevitable.
So, That's my story. I'm LIVING WITH Pancreatic Cancer, I'm not Dying of it. So what about PanCan Overland? Read about my vision here or click on "About PanCan Overland" In the menu to learn more about what I hope to achieve through this website.
Thank you for reading!