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Steve Mielke: A Pancreatic Cancer Warrior

Steve Had A Life-Threatening Cycling Accident On January 2, 2016

Written By Jeanine Mielke
Wife of Steve Mielke
January 2019 Update

This is an update on Steve since his original stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2014.

Read his initial story

To say that Steve and I have had a momentous four years since diagnosis would be an understatement. On January 2, 2016, just three days before we were set to fly from our home in Broward County, Florida to Scottsdale to be seen in follow up with Dr. Erkut Borazanci and team at Honor Health Research Institute and be evaluated for surgery to remove his pancreas because recent scans had consistently shown no evidence of active cancer; Steve had a life- threatening cycling accident.

New Challenges, New Triumphs

As we were adjusting to our “new normal” and celebrating the blessings of clear scans, little did we know what laid around the corner. While riding with his cycling group, Steve and another rider swerved to avoid an obstruction in the road and when he and the other rider came back into position, they collided. Steve was flattened by the other cyclist and sustained severe injuries that included a broken shoulder, broken collarbone, six fractured ribs and a punctured lung. His helmet cracked on both sides and he suffered what’s called a “shearing injury” – a severe concussion that affected his speech, sight and memory. He was transported to the local trauma unit in Florida and when the doctors learned that he was “a pancreatic cancer” patient; he was made comfortable and immediate injuries addressed. I remember Dr. Borazanci’s advice when he called me the day of the accident while I was with Steve in the Intensive Care Trauma Unit. “Dr. B” told me to make sure the physicians treated Steve aggressively as a “trauma patient” and to leave “the cancer to the oncologists.”

During those long weeks in the trauma unit, one early morning while waiting for surgery to address Steve’s lung injuries the trauma physician explained the upcoming surgery to me and said, “He was diagnosed three months ago in October, right?” I responded, “No, he was diagnosed as a Stage 4 pancreas cancer patient over a year ago in October of 2014 and he has been disease free and ready to undergo surgery to remove 60 percent of his pancreas when this accident happened.” The trauma physician looked at me in amazement and asked, “What have they been treating him with? We have healthy 20 -year-olds here with similar injuries without cancer who do not survive this type of injury.” With the realization that Steve had survived 19-plus months from diagnosis, the trauma team aggressively treated his injuries and six weeks later Steve was able to go home.

During Steve’s time in the hospital, I worried about what might be happening with the cancer since Steve was not receiving chemotherapy and his body had sustained such a devastating blow. On Valentine’s Day Steve was discharged from the hospital and resumed chemotherapy within the week. When he had his scans two months later, they had remained clear!

Surgery Lessens Risk

To reduce the possibility of a recurrence of the cancer, Steve was finally able to have the distal pancreatectomy in July 2016. Ten days after surgery Steve collapsed at home from a surgical complication and spent another week in the hospital. We were determined to attend the Seena Magowitz Foundation Annual Golf Classic being held in Boston that year. Steve was given the all clear to travel and a few days later we flew from Florida to Boston to attend the event. Everyone was so gracious, accommodating and compassionate. Steve was weak and in a wheelchair, but we got to Boston and thoroughly enjoyed the event.

Buoyed By Cycling Again

When we returned to Florida, Steve was placed on an oral chemotherapy drug as maintenance therapy. Steve continued his passion for cycling as he resumed indoor cycling classes 3-4 times a week to minimize the chance of another cycling injury. His true warrior spirit could be seen as he averaged 25 miles per session. Steve had no evidence of active disease until June 2017 when the doctors detected a “subtle area” in the neck of the pancreas. Biopsy confirmed recurrence. When Steve found out, he told me, “The cycling will get me through this again.”

More Treatment, More Great Results

Steve was placed back on another six months of Gemzar, Abraxane and Paracalcitol (Vitamin D). Even through the chemotherapy, Steve once again was able to attend the Annual Golf Classic in Boston in August of 2017. “We even walked the Freedom Trail while we were here,” Steve said. What progress he had made from the previous year! Three sets of scans during the six months of treatment all showed no evidence of disease and in January of 2018, Steve underwent targeted radiation to reduce the chance of further recurrence.

Gratitude for Seena Magowitz Foundation and the Research It Supports

And now (in January 2019) Steve’s scans are still clear and he’s feeling well. Steve and I are sincerely grateful for the knowledge gained from the clinical trials made possible through the funding from the Seena Magowitz Foundation. This funding has allowed Dr. Von Hoff and his research team to start clinical trials with fewer patients. We are truly appreciative of Roger Magowitz’ vision and leadership and to all those who have contributed in so many ways.

Steve says, “the information learned from the research of Dr. Von Hoff and team has saved my life! I’ve gotten to see the birth of my first grandbaby, Maddie, who is now almost 3, and just recently celebrated my 39th wedding anniversary with Jeanine.”

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We have been truly blessed over these past four years. We have an awesome team of gifted oncologists, surgeons and radiation oncologists. We appreciate the tireless work of the many talented researchers making progress in this fight against pancreas cancer as well the efforts of Roger and the Seena Magowitz Foundation. Thank you.

~ Jeanine Mielke, January 2019

Steve Mielke. Original Pancreatic Cancer Diagnosis 2014
Steve Mielke. Update January 2019

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