As part of Columbia’s Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month Symposium, Linda Leiby, generously shared her experiences via zoom. The following is a lightly edited-for-text transcription of her account.
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My name is Linda Leiby. I'm 73 years old and I live in Short Hills, New Jersey. My journey started in August 2017.
I was being worked up for Crohn's disease. My symptoms began with inflammation in my colon. And in the winter, I began to lose weight.
In April 2018, I was found to have a pancreatic head lesion on a CT scan. I also had a CA 19-9 of 232.8, which is elevated. My gastroenterologist recommended me to Dr. Chabot at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
Several weeks later at the recommendation of Dr. Chabot, I underwent an endoscopic ultrasound with biopsy, and the results were suspicious for adenocarcinoma. I met with Dr. Chabot, who explained the risks and benefits of surgery, and I then underwent the Whipple surgery in June, 2018.
In July, 2018, I had a CT and PET scan, which revealed two lesions in my right lung. I then met Dr. Sonnet, who is a thoracic surgeon and the director of the Price Family Center for Comprehensive Chest Care | Columbia Surgery.
In September 2018, I underwent a right, lower lobectomy. The pathology showed evidence of cancer from the pancreas. Dr. Chabot recommended Dr. Manji, who is the director of medical oncology and translational research.
My team also recommended genetic consultation in August 2018, which revealed that I had an analysis of 30 genes for hereditary cancers with no pathogenic mutations identified. My Mother, by the way, had passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2008.
Dr. Manji recommended chemotherapy, which I started in November 2018 and completed in April 2019. Other lesions in the upper right lung were identified, for which I later underwent radiation and ablation therapy.
The side effects of chemo were loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, and that famous brain fog. I couldn't go back to work until it was completed. I would rest at home and listen to music.
Friends also came over on scheduled visits to take me out for walks, to chat, and to ensure I ate. I also had weekly scheduled acupuncture sessions.
I am currently under surveillance. I saw Dr. Manji just last month. Imaging shows no evidence of local recurrence of disease and no evidence of metastases in the abdomen or pelvis. I will see him again in four months, along with imaging and blood workup.
My experience here at the Columbia Pancreas Center has been remarkable. The multidisciplinary approach is what I feel made the difference in my course of treatment. I am so thankful for my family and friends and for their relentless and ongoing support.
My husband and I both participate in Velocity, which is Columbia's ride to end cancer, since 2019. It is our own way of “paying it forward.” And, together, we have raised more than 43,000 dollars over the past four years. The Velocity ride is an extraordinarily fun experience. I recommend it.
You can't stop living. You have to be out there and continue to feel part of the daily life of your family and friends. I am a survivor and I will continue to share my journey. Thank you.
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