Mildred “Mickey” Somerman, Happy Pancreas Warrior

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An Inspirational Survivor Story

Written By Debra Gelbart
August 1, 2019

Diagnosed: 1999
Status: In Remission Since Whipple Surgery in 1999

The Scottsdale, Arizona resident stays vibrantly positive despite many years of multiple health challenges.

The next time you’re tempted to feel sorry for yourself, think of Mildred “Mickey” Somerman. She has lived with a diagnosis of cancer four times previously and currently, she’s coping with two other cancers. She also has heart disease and a lung disorder. Yet her attitude is upbeat and her outlook is optimistic.

“You have to just keep going,” said the 91-year-old mother, grandmother and great grandmother while sitting in her home office in Scottsdale surrounded by family mementos and photos. “There really isn’t any other choice.” She embraces this mindset in spite of finding out very recently that her heart condition has worsened considerably but surgery or another treatment isn’t an option for her.

Near-Constant Health Challenges

Her older adult life has been a calendar filled with health challenges:

  • Fallopian tube cancer in 1988, cured with chemotherapy so effective that it’s still used for the same cancer today.
  • Early stage pancreatic cancer in 1999, eradicated by the most common surgery used to treat kind of cancer….the Whipple Procedure.
  • Breast cancer in 2009, managed by with lumpectomy.
  • Six spots of her liver diagnosed in 2012, treated with a monthly shot of anti-hormone drug.
  • A second breast cancer diagnosis in 2013 that resulted in a double mastectomy.
  • A diagnosis of aortic stenosis (a narrowing of the aortal) in 2017.
  • And a diagnosis of lung cancer and COPD in 2018, treated with radiation therapy and supplemental oxygen respectively.

In the aftermath of all of her diagnoses, she said, the only pain she suffers from these days is in her knee that’s developed several problems.

You might be thinking that with all of these health issues, Mickey could be almost an invalid. In fact, she walks without assistance much of the time and cares for herself in her apartment. The only hint that she has health concerns is the nasal cannula tethered to an oxygen cannister that helps her breathe. She is so independent that she’s determined to stay in her own apartment in an all-ages community.

“I never, ever want to live in one of those retirement communities,” she said. “The people there are just so old and sick. I don’t want to live in a place like that.” She recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas with her granddaughter and her granddaughter’s husband.

Through everything she’s experienced, including the passing of her husband Bernie in 2007, she still believes life is good. “Attitude is everything in life,” said Mickey, a retired greeting card store owner and floral designer. ”It’s how you look at things. Even though I’ve been diagnosed with cancer six times, I’m very, very lucky. I count my lucky stars.”

An Activist for Pancreatic Cancer Research

After her pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Mickey was so grateful for her recovery that she became active in fighting for funding for pancreatic cancer research, through a pancreatic cancer advocacy organization. She helped form the committee that stages the “TGen Annual Step-N-Out 5K Fundraiser for pancreatic cancer research. Mildred continues to serve on that committee. That committee was originally formed at a Seena Magowitz Foundation Golf Classic in Phoenix many years ago. “That’s where I met Roger (Magowitz, founder of the Seena Magowitz Foundation),” she said. “We’ve kept in touch ever since.” She has attended the Magowitz Foundation Annual Golf Classic every year that it’s been held in the Phoenix area, she said.

She belongs to two other pancreatic cancer networking groups and supports pancreatic cancer research as much as she can.

“I want to be here as long as possible,” she said. “I love my four great grandchildren (who range in age from 5 to 17) so much. I want to be with them for as long I can.” She plans on taking her own advice, which she also believes is especially important for pancreatic cancer survivors to hear: “Keep going; never give up.”

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