It has been just over four years since I had my Whipple procedure to remove a pre-cancerous cyst from the head of my pancreas; four years since I Started the P.E.A.C.E Fund and two years since I paddled down the Hudson River to raise awareness for Pancreatic Cancer. And this update is written in hopes of sharing courage, strength and hope for any of you who may be battling or watching someone battle pancreatic disease. Don't get me wrong, life has had its ups and downs with hospital stays to deal with recurrent battles of pancreatitis and some days are not as easy as others, but it has not gotten me down and I hope that your own struggle has not gotten you down either. Instead, my disdain for pancreatic disease has instead given me even more drive to spread awareness and pursue a life that enables to me to help others who are dealing with pancreatic diseases.
In January, 2013 I took a leap of faith and left an eight-year career in teaching to pursue my passion in becoming a Physician Assistant. While I lay in my hospital bed just over four years ago healing from my Whipple, the medical student in charge of my case, Christine Hsieh, MD would talk to me about different career paths in medicine. The one that struck a cord with me was the field of Physician Assistant studies. I was 29 at the time and the thought of medical school was just too much. So I asked Christine to bring me more information on becoming a physician assistant, a career she spoke very highly of. The more material she brought me, the more passionate I became about the role that a PA plays in a patients medical journey. So I set my heart on it and decided that it was what I needed to do to help others like myself who have been dealt a hard medical blow. I left the hospital after a month and began taking classes two months later at the local community college at night to get the prerequisite courses I needed to apply.
I am happy to say that as of December 12, 2013, I successfully completed my first year of Physician Assistant School at Albany Medical College, in Albany, New York. Despite having battled two severe bouts of pancreatitis during this last year, both of which put me in the hospital, I have managed to stay positive and successful with the support of my program and the people in it. The amount of awareness I have been able to spread about Pancreatic Cancer has been amazing. I am even more happy to say that on November 26, 2013, during Pancreatic Cancer awareness month I was able to get the entire program, which includes 40 PA students and a faculty/staff of 13, to all wear purple in support of Pancreatic Cancer.
Not only did this group of amazing people all wear purple, but together they raised over $300.00 dollars to donate to the P.E.A.C.E Fund; an endowment at the Pancreas Center I set up to help families who struggle with pancreatic diseases. I am so proud of my family at the Albany Medical College Physician Assistant Program, both faculty and student alike. Each day I go to school I am one step closer to helping individuals like myself who struggle with pancreatic disease and I am doing it with people who have supported me each step of the way. While in the hospital, my classmates would come study with me. My advisor, Shannon Thompson, RPA-C, and the faculty of the program made sure that academically I was right where I needed to be. I couldn't ask for a better support system than those who are part of my AMC family; they are not just an amazing academic institution, but they truly care about the lives of the students within the program.
In just over a year and a half in May 2015, I look forward to walking across the stage to receive my diploma so that I can practice as a full-time Physician Assistant. My life changed four years ago when my amazing surgeon, Dr. Beth Schrope, gave me back my life and opened so many new and amazing doors for me. I look forward to what my journey still has to offer me and hope that I can continue to help people, whether it be through spreading awareness or through the P.E.A.C.E Fund here at The Pancreas Center.
If you are interested in making a donation to the P.E.A.C.E Fund please contact:
The Pancreas Center
For additional information about my journey this far, The P.E.A.C.E. Fund, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Courage, Strength & Hope,