Pancreatic cancer survivor savors normalcy

Relda Marshall’s only pancreatic cancer symptoms seemed benign to her — stomach pains and belching after eating. Eventually, Relda saw her local doctor in Mount Pleasant, Texas. He prescribed an acid-reducer and ordered bloodwork and an ultrasound. A follow-up CT scan confirmed that she had a two-centimeter tumor on her pancreas. “It was a shock,” Relda says. “I had never been really sick.”  After discussing the diagnosis with her family, she decided to go to MD Anderson. In Feb. 2012, she met with Matthew Katz, M.D., who gave her a definitive diagnosis: pancreatic cancer.  Relda’s pancreatic cancer treatment Katz and Gauri Rajani Varadhachary, M.D., created Relda’s pancreatic cancer treatment plan, which would include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. “Everybody was caring and professional,” Relda says. For two weeks, Relda took an oral chemotherapy drug called Xeloda in the morning and evening, and received radiation in the afternoon. Then, she returned home to recover for four weeks so her pancreas could become firmer for the surgery. On April 5, 2012, Katz completed the surgery, removing the tumor, Relda’s gallbladder, spleen, a third of her stomach and surrounding lymph nodes. He performed a vein reconstruction as well. Because the tumor had integrated itself into Relda’s pancreas, Dr. Katz needed to remove the entire pancreas instead of only a portion of the pancreas. Relda was walking the day after her surgery. After 10 days in the hospital and two more weeks in Houston, she returned home with an order to take Gemcitabine, an intravenous chemotherapy, for four months with a local doctor. But shortly after being discharged, Relda developed jaundice and returned...