Thankful and Blessed With Renewed Hope

Written By Julia Brabant
October 2019

Diagnosed: October 21, 2014
Status: No Evidence of Active Cancer

When Steve Mielke decided it was time to get fit, he did so with the hope that he would shed a few pounds and adopt a healthier lifestyle. What he didn’t realize at the time, though was that his decision to take up cycling was one that would one day save his life.

Six years later (and 45 pounds lighter!), the avid cyclist found himself suffering from extreme dehydration following a long-distance group bike ride. When his symptoms became severe enough to warrant an emergency room visit, a subsequent CT scan revealed what doctors referred to an “incidental finding” of a dilated pancreatic duct.

Physicians told him it was likely “nothing to lose sleep over,” but they did advise him to follow up with his doctor, at which point, after another scan, he received devastating news: he had pancreatic cancer and that he would need surgery to remove from his pancreas. The hits didn’t stop there, though – after the procedure began, the surgeon realized that the cancer had spread to his liver, meaning he was no longer a candidate for the surgery.

With surgery off the table, Steve began an intensive chemotherapy regimen developed by TGen’s Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, who had spearheaded a number of groundbreaking clinical trials targeting pancreatic cancer patients. Steve’s employer, Simmons Company’s Gary Fazio, was a longtime supporter of the Seena Magowitz Foundation and Dr. Von Hoff, and he set the wheels in motion for Steve to seek treatment from the doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona. The treatment involved adding Paricalcitol (an analog of activated Vitamin D) to an existing approved set of three cancer-fighting drugs including Abraxane, Gemcitabine, and Cisplatin. The treatment regiment covered the next 13 months.

This regimen developed by Dr. Von Hoff and TGen led to scans that revealed “no evidence of disease.”

Shortly before a visit to determine if Steve was now a candidate for pancreatic surgery, a life-threatening cycling accident sidelined his plans and he was unable to receive chemo during the six weeks he spent in the trauma unit. Even after the six weeks without chemo, doctors saw no reemergence of the disease, and Steve was able to undergo the pancreatic surgery, after all.

Now, almost five years after the initial diagnosis on October 21, 2014, Steve is back on the bike and the proud grandfather to a 3.5-year-old granddaughter with another one on the way – both of whom he may never have met, had it not been for Dr. Daniel Von Hoff.

He also has some words of wisdom for others dealing with similar diagnoses. “Don’t underestimate the power of having an advocate,” he says, acknowledging his wife, Jeanine. “And get out to Scottsdale to see Dr. Daniel Von Hoff. The reason I’m here is because of him.”