Camille Moses, A Valiant Warrior Who Inspires Hope, Will and Courage To Those Fighting Advanced Stage Pancreatic Cancer
Written By Camille Moses
March 12. 2018
Diagnosed: March 2012 Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer
Warrior Survivor: 6 Years. No Chemo Since July 2013
In early 2012 I was feeling depressed and fatigued but before then, I was very active was reasonably healthy, visited the doctor often and did not pay much attention to the malaise I was feeling.
I brushed this off due to the fact that most of my symptoms reassembled the onset of menopause which would have made sense based upon my age, I was 53 years old.
After two trips to urgent care during this period to see if they could source the symptoms I was experiencing, I eventually went to a local emergency room.
While there I explained to the Doctor on staff that I was feeling fatigued, shortness of breath and horrible pain underneath my breasts. They immediately ordered a CT scan to see what was going on.
I waited in the treatment area for what seemed like eternity when the doctor finally made it back.
He walked into my room with a very concerned look on his face and stated that he saw spots on my pancreas, liver and lungs.
In that moment I could not believe what he had said and thought about my mother dying of this painful disease when I was 24.
The doctor said that I needed to be admitted for further testing.
At this point my family and I went home and tried under the circumstances to put a plan of action together.
Later that day I was admitted to a local hospital that had a comprehensive cancer center where I spent the next seven days.
While there I was put through another series of test including a liver biopsy and lots more blood tests.
Then came the dreadful day when an entire team of doctors and nurses walked into my room.
At that moment I knew that there was bad news coming because of the amount of people that came into the room.
Once I heard the absolute diagnosis, I cried in disbelief and I needed a shot of valium to calm me down.
I was overwhelmed, scared and certain I did not have much time left based upon what I knew of pancreatic cancer.
The doctor on staff then suggested that I have a chemo port inserted in my chest and then needed to see a pancreatic cancer oncologist on their staff to discuss my situation.
Upon waking up from surgery to have the port inserted, my next visit was from the pancreatic cancer oncologist on staff and his nurse who started by stating that he would be my doctor.
I then asked what my next step was and he responded that it was too late, you could try chemo but you probably would not live past the the coming November.
They left the room and I was thinking that I would not see Christmas. I was again overwhelmed with emotions.
When I was released from the hospital, my first appointment was with the same doctor who had informed me that I would not last until November and as you could imagine this appointment did not go well. He told me to “Go Home to Die”
In the meantime part of our plan was to seek a second opinion as quickly as possible.
Through family and friends who jumped into action on my behalf, I was fortunate enough to get an appointment at UM/Sylvester Comprehensive Center that same week.
As we drove down to Miami the anxiety level was at a peak as the news we were carrying was grim.
When we pulled up to this enormous building, I was petrified. I was in pain, weak and having trouble walking and needed a wheelchair to get to the appointment.
Although I was having all of these difficulties, the moment that my oncologist and his team entered the room, I felt somewhat relieved because they were all moving about with purpose and asked me all of the right questions.
They understood how I was feeling!
My oncologist who had already reviewed my file/scan started to discuss my situation.
He looked me in the eyes acknowledging the grim prognosis that was put before me.
He showed me on my scan the severity of my condition and how the cancer had spread considerably to my liver.
My family and I were again devastated by the reality of what was before us.
I began to cry as this was overwhelming knowing how sick I was and I was really scared.
The final diagnosis was aggressive Stage 4 Metastasized Pancreatic Cancer. It had spread to my liver and lungs.
This is when the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center experience really started to make a difference. Instead of looking at me and putting a timeline on the rest of my life, my oncologist although brutally honest gave me a vision of hope. He believed that with a very intense regiment of chemotherapy could prolong my life with some quality. He wrote out the treatment and pain management plan and explained to me the process which was daunting but gave me a glimmer of light on an otherwise dark day.
I have held on to those words ever since!
I walked out of this appointment with a new sense of Hope and determination to FIGHT!
The very next week I started an extensive chemotherapy regiment.
I had treatment every other week for 10 hours and had to wear a chemo pump for 46 hours afterwards which I kept under my pillow while I slept.
I was the first patient to arrive at the chemo center and I was the last patient to leave there at night.
After several rounds of chemo I was experiencing issues with my blood count and the oncologist recommended a procedure called a splenic embolization which could help my body retain more of the blood cells which are crucial to me healing.
I had the procedure done and in addition to that he prescribed a shot which was painful and debilitating, but effective!
At this point I thought that I would receive chemo for the rest of my life and the oncologist hadn’t indicated any differently.
The staff at the chemo center where I was treated has become like family.
The experience and compassion of the nurses and technicians made my time there bearable in an unbearable situation.
They continued to cheer me on even in my darkest days.
During treatment, I had my regular quarterly follow ups and scans with my oncologist to monitor my condition, check my tumor markers and blood counts.
Even through all of the platelet issues I have had, the extreme weight loss I was 100 pounds and the overall misery that I went through with the Chemo each scan seem to indicate that the cancer was shrinking and not progressing.
With each three month visit, the doctors, nurses and staff at SCCC always urged me to continue my fight.
I kept remembering what my oncologist had originally said, that if my body could handle the chemo it would work.
It was beginning to look like he was right and that empowered me!
After a grueling 17 months of this extensive chemo cocktail and several scans that showed significant improvement in my condition including suppressing the constant pain I was experiencing, my oncologist gave me a Chemo Holiday where I remain on today. My last chemo treatment was in July 2013.
The chemo, although it has saved my life, has been very tough on me physically and mentally. I still am dealing with the many side effects.
The neuropathy will probably never go away.
Since that grim day in March of 2012 I have managed to ride and walk in many events to raise funds for Cancer Research. I have become a volunteer at the Cancer Center and am an active member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council.
I spend many days coaching others thru their battle with Pancreatic Cancer.
I am here to spread Hope in a dreadful deadly beast with call Pancreatic Cancer