Jane Fagell

Living Proof of the Power of Early Intervention

Written By Julia Brabant
November, 2019

Diagnosed: December 2018
Status: Presently No Sign of Cancer

Too many pancreatic cancer patients have similar stories. They didn’t exhibit symptoms or find out there was anything wrong until their cancer had progressed outside the pancreas, at which point they had limited treatment options available to them.

Jane Fagell’s story is a different one, but, ultimately, it teaches the same lesson: early detection isn’t just important – it can literally mean the difference between life and death.

It all began in late 2018, when Jane had several episodes of projectile vomiting and needed to determine the cause. She’d recently had a flu shot, so she thought her condition might somehow be a result of it. She visited her primary care doctor, who told her she couldn’t find any obvious problems, so Jane returned home. Several weeks later, the symptom recurred and worsened.

Making the ultimately life-saving decision to seek out a second opinion, she went to the emergency room at HonorHealth in Scottsdale, Arizona where they performed a CT scan that revealed a small mass on the tail of her pancreas. Suspecting pancreatic cancer, she called her kids, who were well-connected in the local medical community and assured her that, if she were right, at least she already lived in close proximity to the best team of pancreatic cancer physicians and researchers in the nation.

It turned out Jane was right, and a biopsy that took place December 4, 2018, confirmed it. She had an early form of cancer, thankfully, and doctors never gave her a particular “stage” – instead, they moved swiftly, qualifying her for a clinical trial the HonorHealth Research Institute and then starting chemotherapy within three weeks of her diagnosis.

“I responded incredibly well to chemotherapy,” Jane said, noting that she completed chemotherapy February 20, 2019, paving the way for her to undergo radiation therapy and, ultimately, a distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy at the hands of Dr. Albert Amini. The doctor removed part of her pancreas and her spleen April 15, 2019. “It really is a testament to the power of early intervention.”

Her diagnosis is also something Jane attributes to Divine Intervention – as it turns out, her severe vomiting episodes that led to her diagnosis had absolutely nothing to do with her pancreatic cancer, because, at that time, it wasn’t causing any noticeable symptoms. Instead, the cause of her illness was something unidentified and unrelated. Because of her severe vomiting episodes, though, doctors were able to identify a much more serious health issue and, thanks to catching it early, managed it extraordinarily well.

So, when a disease doesn’t cause any symptoms until long after it takes root and Divine Intervention fails to come into play, as it did in Jane’s case, what can one do to take back control? Jane believes the answer is two-fold. “Listen to your body,” she said. “People tend to ‘shake things off,’ but there are certain signals. No one knows your body like you, so listen to it.”

Jane also believes the key to early intervention lies in genetic testing, but notes that many people have concerns about doing it because of fears about costs or insurance companies refusing to cover it.

“Knowing where you are on the spectrum of genetic mutations can give you a place to start,” said Jane. “They say knowledge is power and ignorance is bliss,” she added. “In my case, ignorance would have been anything but bliss.”

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