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Jeff Power: Dr. Douglas B. Evans Saved His Life

Written By: Julia Brabant
October 2023

Date of Diagnosis: January 2022
Current Status: No Sign of Cancer Since His Surgery

A Second Opinion Saved Jeff Power’s Life

When Jeff Power of Dallas, Texas, found out he had pancreatic cancer, he sought out the best possible care he could find locally. His doctor, hoping to make him eligible for surgery, recommended he have chemotherapy to shrink his tumor, which was dangerously close to his aorta. When the treatment failed to produce the intended results, his doctor felt he couldn’t move forward with surgery safely – but he urged Jeff to seek a second opinion in a move that may have saved Jeff’s life.

Jeff’s initial symptoms included digestive issues and abdominal discomfort. His wife, Cindy, urged him to go to the doctor until he relented and did so. There, doctors conducted a series of tests, one of which was a CT scan that revealed a tumor on Jeff’s pancreas.

Jeff began chemo, and after several more rounds and scans, his doctor felt confident in his chances as a surgical candidate and elected to move forward with surgery. After beginning the procedure, though, he changed his mind, determining that his tumor was still too close to the aorta to make surgery safe.

Returning to the drawing board, Jeff’s care team decided to try radiation and more chemotherapy. When that combination, too, failed to shrink the tumor enough to make surgery a viable option, his doctor, recognizing his limitations, referred him to two other cancer centers known for their innovative, cutting-edge surgical programs. Jeff chose to get his second opinion at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Jeff’s team sent his scans and tests to Dr. Douglas B. Evans, M.D., who concluded he could perform an Appleby surgery on Jeff. While a Whipple surgery is often the primary course of treatment for people with pancreatic cancer, Jeff’s case called for the Appleby, a procedure initially used to treat people with locally advanced gastric cancer.

The Appleby requires the rerouting of veins in the stomach and the removal of the celiac trunk. Jeff’s surgery was a success, both because Dr. Evans only had to reroute one of five of Jeff’s stomach veins, and because he was able to save about 30% of Jeff’s pancreas.

Post-surgery, Jeff is a Type 2 diabetic. He took insulin shots for a period, and while he has since stopped, he still takes CREON with every meal to help him digest foods.

“I’m pretty lucky,” Jeff said. “That’s really the only inconvenience I have.”

Jeff is also participating in a clinical study and targeted therapy under the direction of Dr. Mandana Kamgar, M.D., at Froetert & MCW. The therapy involves taking a trial drug, an oral pill, in an effort to lower tumor markers and help prevent the chances of a recurrence. Ultimately, the study seeks to help determine if immunotherapy pills could be a possible alternative to chemotherapy.

Jeff takes the pill for three weeks at a time before taking a week off and undergoes frequent blood tests to monitor its effectiveness. He said that while his pharmacist sat him down to discuss potential side effects, he’s been lucky so far and only experienced minor ones.

Since his diagnosis, Jeff has also had a chance to meet other people facing similar health hurdles. He attended the 2023 Seena Magowitz Foundation’s annual Power of Us fundraiser, held in Milwaukee in August 2023. After realizing it took place during the same month he was to have a follow-up at MCW. There, he united with about 80 other people who either have or had pancreatic cancer and shared his own story with the crowd.

“When you go through something like this, you’re always looking over your shoulder wondering when it’s going to come back,” he said. “It was comforting to meet people who’ve gone through the same thing, and to meet people who were given two years to live 29 years ago. It’s also comforting to know that there are so many different treatments out there and so many people working on new treatments.”

Jeff had a chance to enjoy breakfast alongside some of the nation’s leading pancreatic cancer oncologists, surgeons and researchers. He also spent time with long-time survivors and people facing relatively recent diagnoses. For people facing recent diagnoses, he offered up several words of wisdom based on his own experiences.

“First, don’t panic,” he said. “Second, don’t Google it. Everyone is different, and you can’t plan your own journey based on what happened to someone else.”

Jeff also acknowledged the importance of feeling confident in one’s care team; a sentiment he expressed during his speech at the 2023 Seena Magowitz Foundation Power of Us fundraiser at American Family Field, the home of the Milwaukee Brewers.

“Look at the Hall of Fame up here,” he said, gesturing to the names of some of the Brewers’ biggest standouts. He then gestured to the physicians, researchers and oncologists in the audience. “These guys ought to be in a Hall of Fame for doctors given everything they’re doing.”

Jeff also expressed gratitude for his own care team at MCW.

“They had a plan, and as long as they had a plan, I felt confident I’d be alright,” he said. “We’re all going to die at some point, but we just don’t know when. In the meantime, I’m going to fight like hell.”

Jeff has shown no signs of cancer since his October 2022 surgery.

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