Steve Meilke

Steve Mielke Pancreas Cancer Survivor

Diagnosed: October 21, 2014
Survivor: Still Fighting The Courageous Battle.

In the summer of 2014, my husband, Steve, and I celebrated 35 years of marriage. We were loving life being blessed with close family and friends, enjoying fulfilling professions and starting to achieve life long dreams of travel.

Then on October 21, 2014 – in the blink of an eye – our life was forever changed. An endoscopic ultrasound and biopsy revealed Steve had pancreatic cancer. The weeks following were an emotional roller coaster as we approached the surgery date to remove 60% of his pancreas. Astonishingly, shortly into surgery the surgeon discovered the cancer had already spread to his liver. Surgery was no longer an option since the cancer had metastasized.

Prognosis quickly turned from hopeful to grim. Chemotherapy alone became the treatment. It seemed we were dealt a never-ending string of bad news. Steve’s condition had deteriorated. Significant weight loss. Profound fatigue. He had difficulty swallowing even the tiniest morsels of food. It became a new reality we had to face. Chemotherapy began three weeks before Christmas.

Christmas Day however brought a welcomed ray of light and hope that we had been praying for. Just three chemo treatments created a positive turnaround for Steve. His improving condition was our Christmas miracle. The thrill of exchanging smiles, laughter and joyful times among people who loved my husband so much were truly a gift from God.

Back To The Beginning Before Diagnosis

My husband and I have always been people of faith so when life threw us this “curve ball”, we knew that God would have his hand over us as we began this difficult journey. We believed that God had positioned us not only with our jobs that provided awesome medical resources for Steve but also with people placed in our lives to guide, support and love us through this. We had made lifestyle changes that ultimately are helping us towards a great recovery.

Six years before diagnosis, Steve had made a life-changing decision to lose weight, to eat smart and to generally adopt a healthy lifestyle. He started cycling and lost 45 pounds. Cycling became a passion for
my husband and because of a complication from a long ride, the diagnosis was ultimately made.

After a 56 mile ride at the end of September, 2014, Steve had problems with dehydration that landed him in the emergency room. A CT scan revealed “an incidental finding of a dilated pancreatic duct” – “nothing
to lose sleep over” but “be sure to follow up with your doctor”– thus the endoscopic ultrasound.

In the absence of no other symptoms this unforeseen event led to a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer that otherwise would not have been made until potentially too late.

Further confirmation of our faith that God is with us on this walk is reflected in our careers. I’ve worked a decade in oncology administration and currently work for a major cancer center that is now providing Steve with quality care. We are surrounded by physicians and nurses who exhibit a passion for what they do every day!

Steve’s employer, Simmons Company, annually supports the Seena Magowitz Foundation fundraising efforts for pancreatic cancer research. When Gary Fazio, the CEO of Simmons, found out about Steve’s diagnosis, Gary asked Roger Magowitz to reach out to us and tell us about further resources that might be available.

Through Roger, we learned about Dr. Daniel Von Hoff and his work at TGEN. We found out that Steve was on the very regimen that Dr. Von Hoff had pioneered in clinical trials. We went for a consultation with Dr. Von Hoff in February 2015 and our local physicians are now working in collaboration with him.

In the 5 months since his surgery, Steve has improved remarkably. His strength has increased, he has regained his weight and miraculously he is back to cycling on a regular basis! My husband’s attitude inspires me every day as we continue the battle against this dreadful disease.

Enlightened With Hope

We have been given hope through the options that Dr. Von Hoff and his team have developed. This disease silently rears up and robs couples’, children and families of their joy… Although we’ve heard those words, “worst of the worst”, we have seen God’s hand bring the “best of the best”.

It is so critical to continue to help fund efforts that allow Dr. Von Hoff and team to further pioneer advances for early detection of this disease, and in targeting therapies that will specifically attack the pancreatic cancer cells giving patients the best chance for long term survival.

Steve’s cancer diagnosis brought about the darkest days we could imagine, but through the people that God has put in our life – doctors, nurses, family, friends, acquaintances – all united in a common purpose to work this situation for good and to defeat this dreaded disease, we have experienced a depth of love, joy and dedication that has touched our hearts.

We are forever grateful. Our hope is that our story will encourage those on the same walk.

~ Jeanine Mielke, May, 2015

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