Stories of Hope: Michael Menashi

Dr. Chabot and Michael MenashiThe worst day of my life: July 25, 2014… I received the call from Dr. Chabot’s office, “Your pathology report came back and it’s positive for Pancreatic Cancer.”  My world just stopped.  I had just received a death sentence.  Everyone I knew with this diagnosis died within three months. I could not call my wife and tell her; instead, I sat alone at my computer and sent an email to my friends with the disturbing news.  I eventually got the strength and the courage to call my wife at work.  She rushed home, together we cried, we got angry and we cried some more. At that time we made a promise that the next morning there would be no more tears or anger - we were going to fight this thing with the best doctors in the world and a positive attitude.

Now the best day of my life….today, a year later… because I am still here to tell you of my journey!

I started feeling really sick in May, 2014.  My diabetes suddenly went out of control, I had lost considerable weight, I had major gastrointestinal problems, and I looked and felt just terrible.  My endocrinologist ordered an abdominal CT scan which indicated a small mass on my pancreas. My local hospital told me to come back in three months for another scan. Can you believe that?  Thank God, neither my primary care physician nor I took that advice.  He immediately ordered an MRI and strongly suggested I meet with Dr. Chabot. Before my consultation, Dr. Chabot’s office ordered a biopsy which confirmed my cancer.  We later met with him to discuss “The Whipple.”  He made this intense and difficult surgery sound so “matter of fact.”  Of course, I had a lot of questions.  Dr. Chabot was patient – gave us all the time we needed – like I was his only patient! He also stated, based upon the size and location of the mass he expected a positive outcome…yes, a positive outcome. I had to get used to these euphemisms, but this was the first time I started to have a glimmer of hope.  There are no words to describe the effect Dr. Chabot’s confidence and positive attitude had on me and I am sure, on his other patients as well.

On July 29th, just four days later, I was scheduled for surgery.  I was up at 3:00am and arrived at the hospital by 4:45am.  As the sign says, amazing things are happening there.  I was prepped for surgery. Dr. Chabot stopped by with his ever present big smile and we took time for a few pre-op photos.  One thing that really sticks out in my mind is that I walked to surgery…no ride on a gurney.  Somehow this act translated to mean, not to worry, we do this all the time, you’re going to be Okay. 

Surgery went well…recovery even better.  I was home by Saturday.  Dr. Chabot said he had never seen a patient recover so soon and so well.  I attribute this to the skill of Dr. Chabot, and the attention I received from everyone on his staff and the personnel of the hospital.  

So far, this was to easy part.  I now needed Chemotherapy.  I elected to take the six months of chemo in Westchester and Dr. Chabot recommended Dr. Dan Costin.  If Dr. Chabot had a twin brother it would be Dr. Costin. Once again I encountered a doctor with patience, skill, a big simile and the ever important positive attitude.

As with most chemo patients, you feel great after the first couple of treatments. You think this a piece of cake.  What’s all the fuss about? Then the toxicity levels start building up.  I have never been so sick and weak in my all life, constantly in and out of the hospital, constantly being transfused. I even arrested once and needed to be resuscitated. But the great news was I had my first PET scan and it came back clear of cancer!  We celebrated for one week and then my kidneys failed from the effects of the chemo.  I am now on dialysis and participating in and experimental drug program to repair the damage. I am just starting to see improvement.

Well, my journey so far has had many peaks and valleys.  I am most grateful to my family and friends who have helped me and been with me through this time but especially to Dr. Chabot and his staff. It is because of Dr. Chabot I am celebrating my first year as a pancreatic cancer survivor and will be attending my son’s wedding this September.