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Fearless, Courageous, and Grateful

Written By Debra Gelbart
October 2019

Diagnosed: April 2016
Status: No Evidence of Active Cancer

She is Blessed To Have No Evidence of Cancer 3.5 Years After Initial Diagnosis

Marilyn Rubin’s view of pancreatic cancer is straightforward and philosophical. “If you have to get pancreatic cancer, now is certainly a better time to have it than in years past,” she said. “Because the advances in treatment mean it’s not an automatic death sentence anymore.”

Marilyn knows that firsthand. The Scottsdale, Arizona resident was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April of 2016. Her daughter had noticed that Marilyn looked jaundiced and suggested she go to the doctor. She was admitted shortly after that to the HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center, underwent an endoscopy and then was diagnosed.

She consulted with Erkut Borazanci, M.D., a leading oncologist and pancreatic cancer researcher at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at the HonorHealth Research Institute.

“He told me, ‘no matter who you choose for your oncologist, make sure you have treatment with chemo before any surgery.’ I have faith in God and I knew He would lead me to the right decision,” Marilyn said. “I chose Dr. Borazanci and it was the best decision I ever made.”

From Chemo To Surgery To Rehab

Marilyn, whose cancer was considered late stage 2, began a course of chemotherapy that was a combination of gemcitabine, Abraxane and paricalcitrol (Vitamin D) designed to reduce the tumor size in her pancreas before having the Whipple Procedure. In August of 2018, she was told doctors believed she was ready for Whipple surgery.

Her surgery, performed by Albert Amini, M.D., took 12 and a half hours. Dr. Amini told her afterward that the surgery was difficult and that he removed 40 lymph nodes for testing. “I was told to expect to stay in the hospital after that for about two weeks,” Marilyn said, “but I actually only stayed five days before being discharged.” None of her lymph nodes showed any sign of cancer.

She spent the next three weeks in rehab, followed by six more weeks of chemo. Her tumor marker dropped to 17 (under 37 is normal for the CA 19-9 marker). Marilyn, who has no genetic risk factors for pancreatic cancer, was feeling well after that and for the next three years, she traveled every year to Israel where she stayed for six months. She spent the other half of each year in Scottsdale.

A Setback Becomes A Bounce-Back

But in June 2019, she learned her tumor marker had jumped to 399. “Dr. Borazanci told me that means something’s going on,” Marilyn said. Radiologist Steven Sckolnik, M.D. recommended six weeks of radiation for Marilyn, which she completed on Oct. 3, 2019. Marilyn’s cancer marker dropped to 22. “I feel very blessed and very lucky,” she said. “I had no side effects from the radiation and my latest CT scan in November was negative. Dr. Borazanci said I don’t have to be on any medication and that I don’t have to come back for a check-up for a couple of months.”

Connecting With Seena Magowitz Foundation

Just before her scan, Marilyn attended the Seena Magowitz Foundation’s Annual Golf Classic fundraiser, held in 2019 in Phoenix during the first weekend of November. “At the Friday luncheon, hearing about all of the medical advancements against pancreatic cancer was amazing,” Marilyn said. “And I got a chance to meet a recently diagnosed patient who said I give him hope because I’m still here almost four years after my diagnosis. Someone else told me she believes I got pancreatic cancer so I can offer hope to others.”

Marilyn first connected with the Magowitz Foundation in 2016 while undergoing chemo before her surgery. One day, she was in the waiting room and Roger Magowitz, the founder of the Foundation, was there, too, awaiting the start of a meeting. They struck up a conversation and Marilyn has been in touch with the Magowitz Foundation ever since.

Now Marilyn is looking forward to welcoming family, including five children and 10 grandchildren, to her Scottsdale home and then returning to Israel for another six months.

“I’m so grateful to my entire medical team for giving me my life,” she said. “We’re living in a wonderful time.”

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