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Mitchell Freiberg: Pancreatic Cancer Warrior
Self Written By Mitchell Freiberg
March 14, 2022
Diagnosed: December 10, 2020
Current Status: Disease free. No sign of cancer
At 62 years young, I had always led an active and healthy life and never expected the journey that lied ahead.
My family history is heart disease and diabetes.
Considering that family history, I adhered to a healthy lifestyle including being physically active and adapting proper diet to protect myself against developing heart issues. In 2019, I went from being on the highest dosage for cholesterol and triglycerides, to not needing any medication at all.
In 2020, I was struck by the dreaded Covid.
The subsequent pandemic not only further compelled myself and my family to sustain and even adapt a healthier to healthy lifestyle and to practice safer methods to avoid further issues with Covid.
My daughters, who were about to graduate with their under-graduate degree and master’s degree, had their universities closed, so they moved back in with my wife and I. We all had a lot of free time, and I never felt better. I was swimming every day and running 3-4 miles as well.
Yet i subsequently had abdominal and back pain.
I complained about that pain with my family doctor at the end of 2019. He felt the abdomen and back pain were 2 separate issues, and he wanted to focus on one at a time. I was sent for an ultrasound and CT scan of the abdomen, and they were clear.
He also sent me for a blood test, and my ALT, AST and Alkaline Phosphatase were slightly high. At his suggestion, I followed up with a GI, who dismissed it, as the numbers were only 5% above the safe range. I then was sent for x-rays for the back, and I was sent for physical therapy and chiropractic services.
The pain continued and I went back to my doctor, but I managed to live with the pain.
As the year went by, my clothes felt loose, and I assumed I was losing weight from increased exercise. In November I went for a blood test, and this time the ALT, AST and Alkaline Phosphatase were through the roof. They were all over 20 times higher versus the same test 6 months earlier.
I immediately went back to my primary doctor, and he put everything on the fast track.
He sent me for the same 2 abdomen tests I had at the end of the previous year. He was also mentioned that I lost 35 pounds and I looked jaundiced. On 12/10/2020, I heard the words I’ll never forget. I was told I had pancreatic cancer.
I worked so hard to be healthy, and I couldn’t believe I had cancer. This happy and healthy person now felt anger and why me. And of course, the more I read about pancreatic cancer and life expectancy, the more anger and afraid I felt. I’ll always wonder if I had stage 1 pancreatic cancer when I first complained about the abdomen and back pain i had one year previously, but nothing was visible on the CT during that time.
I knew I only had one option, and that was to stand up and deal with this monster.
It has been 4 months since the procedures, and I am beginning to get my energy back and my life back. I am gaining weight and eating healthy.
I am very grateful to all my family and friends for the love and support they gave me. I am also very grateful for the pancreatic pages on Facebook, where I was able to speak with people in the same situations. But most important, I was very fortunate to have a great medical team at The Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida.
Although I continue with a regular surveillance schedule including blood tests and CT scans, I am happy to report that I am now disease-free and thankfully without need for chemotherapy.
If there is anything I would like to share with others beginning this journey…..”be your own healthcare advocate and do not take no for an answer”. And find a medical team that you feel confident with.
I have since met a few pancreatic cancer survivors who gave me hope on my darkest days. I hope to do the same for newly diagnosed patients beginning this journey.