Conventional Medicine


A true thank you to everyone who has been praying for me, supporting me and keeping up with my fight against damien. I couldn’t do it without all of you.

Like I said in the post from yesterday, if life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But, you see, I am diabetic and lemonade is really bad because of all the sugar, plus I just plain don’t like it anyway.

So, in an effort to be a little bit creative, when I got my lemons this past weekend, I knew exactly what to do with them.

I hope you enjoy it …

Oops, sorry, there are some technical glitches that need to be figured out before I can show you other things to do with lemons. It’s coming … after the glitches. Thanks for your patience.


Digestive system diagram showing bile duct loc...

Digestive system diagram showing bile duct location

Here’s an update from the recent hospital visit last Thursday through Sunday:

  • The procedure to remove a bile obstruction Sunday did not work — the pancreatic tumor had so encapsulated the bile duct that the doc could not get past the obstruction to remedy the blockage
  • The doc did offer a couple of alternatives, but suggested that we talk with the oncologist first
  • We have an appointment with a highly recommended oncologist tomorrow morning

The procedure would have made it easier for me to digest food and eliminate the food in a normal fashion. It would have also given me a few more choices if and when possible chemotherapy comes into play.

I want to thank all of you for your prayers and best wishes that have come in over the past few days. God is great!

Stay tuned and I will share with you the next steps after tomorrow’s visit with the oncologist.


There are some things I learned during this past four days in the hospital:

  • When I am lying in the hospital bed, there is no better feeling than when a family member comes into the room
  • If you feel WELL going to the hospital, all it takes is one night when nurses come in the room at 10:30 pm, 11;30 pm, 3:30 am, 4:30 am, 5:30 am, 6:30 am and 7:30 am to make you FEEL sick
  • If you are swearing off watching news programs, as I am, it helps to have an iPod or iPad to wile away the hours listening to music that entertains you and gives you some rest
  • I find I say a few more prayers when I am in the hospital than when I am not
  • One night I turned out all the lights in the room and stood before the mirror — I was sure I was glowing in the dark after all the CT scans and MRIs that I had had so far
  • When the nurse was hooking me up to an IV fluid line, I asked her if I could have the sack that when it is administering the fluids, the process would leave a “steak and potatoes and Shiner Bock” taste in my mouth. Sadly, she said they don’t make IV fluid sacks like that yet
  • All it takes is a stay in a hospital room to help you remember all the vacations and trips you have taken to ANY place that does not resemble a small room with a bed in it
  • At the end of the day, I felt fully confident that the docs and nurses I met, and who provided me with care, truly had my best interests, as a patient of theirs, at heart.


As a patient in the hospital, when the doc comes in and gives me the bad news that he could not successfully perform the procedure, I immediately recall a poster somewhere that said, ” When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well, here is a picture of me with some lemons. I really don’t care for lemonade at all, and, as a diabetic, it’s not good for me.

Tomorrow, I will show you something you can do with the lemons.

Stay tuned to tomorrow to see what else you can do with lemons.

Greetings from a hospital room in Austin, with a beautiful view of downtown the weekend that Formula One racing comes speeding through the Texas Capital.

I am here to try to iron out some digestive issues. It could be that my nemesis, damien, has decided to give me long-deserved attention. And, when he chooses to give me some attention, he can be a very focused little fellow.

I will try to spare you the gory details, but I have been losing a little weight here and there the past six months or so. When I started the cancer fight, I was a little hefty at 187 lbs. At the weigh-in when i came to the hospital, I loaded up that scale with a hearty 149 lb. girth.

I have a bile obstruction that is not uncommon to pancreatic cancer patients. I need to have a stent inserted to clear that pathway. After numerous CT scans and an MRI, my gastro guy is ready to do the work in the morning. He will insert a camera and take a look down my esophagus and into my digestive system. Once the stent is inserted, then my urine, which now looks like a bright California sunset (red not yellow) will return to normal. And, it will have a pathway as clear as our F1 racetrack.

And, having this procedure will give me additional choices for chemo,which appears to be a potential next step.

Stay tuned for further notice. I just remember that “with God all things are possible.”

By the way, here is a photo from the hospital room of that doctor who is assisting tomorrow and her meal prep. God bless you all and your prayers.


Routinely, after I have an appointment with my oncologist, I send out a routine message to family members. It is usually short, sweet and to the point. Something like this:

“Just had a meeting with the oncologist after a CT scan and blood work. Still no pain; no discomfort; no symptoms. Oncologist says keep doing what you’re doing.”

So, for family and friends who read this, they will reach out to either me or Patti and ask: “So, what is he doing? How come he’s still so healthy after more than a year since the stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis?”

"Who are those guys?"

Every time Patti tells me a friend or family member has asked her these questions, it makes me think of one thing: the scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where Butch and Sundance have blown up the safe in the train and are being chased by the railroad detectives. Butch and Sundance keep running over hill and canyon, prairie and forest, and still the detectives keep coming after them. At one point up on a mesa, Butch looks out and sees the posse still coming after them full force. He looks at Sundance and says, “Who are those guys?”

In my case, I know who “those guys” are — little “bad juju cells” as Johnny Weissmuller would say in his role as Jungle Jim.

Outside of the praise I give to the Almighty for his constant protection, I think there are some basics that I have learned over the past year.

1) Keep your immune system strong. When I was first diagnosed, I started a routine of building up my immune system. This included laser light treatments, detoxification of the immune system, and strengthening the immune system through appropriate holistic nutrients and supplements. I think that helped me tremendously. The Center for Holistic Healing here in Dallas helped.

2) Know what to eat and what to skip. Among the most dramatic things that I did was to change my diet. Well, let’s say I’m TRYING to change my diet. At times, it’s hit and miss. What I mean by changing my diet is that I used to eat quite a bit of red meat. And, as anyone who has worked with me at my various places of employment will attest, I am a 1000% sucker for sugar. Chocolate, really. I used to spend afternoons at the office walking around, grazing for sugar. And, when Patti and I were researching pancreatic cancer, we discovered there were certain foods that PROMOTE growth of the cancerous cells. BAD JUJU. These include red meat and sugar and some processed foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce. I try to stay away from these with various levels of success … and failure.

And, as you may imagine, there are foods you can eat that will retard or slow the growth of these bad juju cells. Those foods include beau coups of veggies, such as broccoli, cabbage, turnips, Brussel sprouts. It’s a good thing that I love all these guys.

The ideal diet for me will have loads of these veggies, and no meat or sugar. We’ve given up soft drinks for tea and water and some coffee. But, I occasionally still have a glass of wine. Don’t drink much beer any more, and I used to have my fair share. I realize that with the wine comes sugar, so I keep that in mind when I DO choose to have a glass.

By the way, please don’t infer I am “preaching” about this. I’m certainly not one to tell others what to do, but since people have asked what I do, this pretty much sums it up. I still have those cravings for a scintillating Fuddrucker’s burger, but I now ask for a vegan version. And, I am trying to dramatically reduce my intake of chicken and fish.

Powerful content

Recently, my sister-in-law, Nina, showed Patti and me a video titled “Forks over Knives.” It was truly amazing and a life changer. The video explains the value of adopting a plant-based diet. Much like other diet and nutrition vehicles, this doesn’t attempt to “sell” you anything but a healthy lifestyle. The businesslike making of points in this video really appealed to me. I don’t like preaching, and this did not come off that way to me at all.

I am not trying to sell anything here at all, but if you want to know more, check out:

3) Exercise some. Yeah, I know this just makes sense. But, for me, it’s easier said than done. I love to sit in front of my computer and write. Things like this fightingdamien blog, or the novel I’m crafting. But that is very sedentary. Do I like treadmills? No, but I know exercise is important. I know there are benefits from hitting the gym, I’m just plain lazy, most of the time. So, do I do well at exercise? No, but I’m trying to do better.

4) Get rid of stress. Ironically, I think this has had a tremendous amount to do with my emotional and physical states. Before cancer, I was a consultant. Lots of travel, loads of pressing deadlines, quick turnarounds, long hours, unruly schedules. At times, that work environment was very rewarding. I like being busy. I like being part of success. I went from work weeks that were routinely 60+ hours with loads of travel, to 0+ hours of work and no travel. It was a very dramatic drop in stress — from bunches to none. Health is my primary concern now, so I do what it takes to stay healthy. Like Martha says, “That’s a good thing.”

I no longer work, except take out the trash, routine chores and mow the lawn. And, occasionally when there is something I know I need to do, but don’t want to do, I pull out the “cancer cough.”  Right in front of Patti, I will show my sad eyes, put my hand near my mouth and cough a very faint, weak, barely audible or even noticeable cough that is designed to elicit her sympathy. It doesn’t work, but it does generate a laugh or two between the two of us and we have heard that laughing causes cancer cells to die. Don’t know if it’s true, but it sounds like it COULD BE true.

I know that getting rid of stress is easier said than done. But there are ways (see number 3 above) to rise above the stress. Making sure you take time for yourself during the day is important. There are loads of stats about the importance of taking time for “you” during your busy day. Sometimes, it’s just a few moments, but having the feeling that you are in control of your day rather than an employer, is a tremendously gratifying and rewarding feeling. Whether it is just going outside for a walk around the block at work or at home, for just a few moments, that helps to ease the stress and help you feel in control.

Contentment: a lab in his pool

Frankly, I think this item has had more impact on my health than just about all of the above combined. A friend told me the other day that he thought I looked very content. I’ve thought about that a lot since then. I am content, very content. I don’t worry like I used to — about everything. Years ago, when I was putting in those long weeks at work, and fitting family around work, I never felt like I knew how the world worked, or how I fit into it. It was a huge foreboding feeling.

Today, I am thankful for this cancer. Yep, I sure am. This past year has helped me become content. I am very content. For the first time in my life, I DO feel like I know how the world works, and I feel like I know how I fit in it. Content feels really, really good! And that, my friends, is worth all the gold in Fort Knox. God bless you all!

Today, Patti and I had a meeting with my oncologist, Dr. T.

I had not seen Dr. T since my last appointment in October 2011. Then, he gave me a glowing report. The tumors were stable, no growth or expansion of the cancer to other organs.

Today, I got a similar report. To God be the glory.

I have to admit, since Dr. T has extended the time between office visits, I approach each meeting with a bit of trepidation. Certainly, since my last visit in October, we have had a tragic loss — a death in the family that required daily visits to the hospital from late November through early January.  That was a very stressful time for our family.

So, I was very relieved to see that, even with the stress, the tumors have continued to remain stable. I am so thankful, and continue to thank the Lord for my blessings.

So, work continues on the book, my love of writing has not subsided, and Patti and I are planning to take a quick trip soon to provide some additional stress relief.

I thank you all for your prayers and good wishes. I hope you know that I return your love, your goodwill, and pray for your health and well-being. Thank you.


This is not an easy one to write.

Tonight, Patti and I are spending our New Year’s Eve with her brother, Bill, in a Dallas hospital.

He is nearing the end of a 15-year struggle with melanoma. His fight has been valiant. When Bill first discovered he had melanoma, he followed professional counsel and earnestly began treatment. Along the way over the past 15 years, he has had surgeries to remove malignant tumors. He recovered well from these surgeries, certainly enough to resume steady work, steady play, and enjoy his other roles of committed husband, father, son, brother and friend. Bill understood that melanoma is hellishly aggressive and damnably uncompromising. So far, he has fought this onslaught with fierce determination, tenacious courage and an unwavering commitment to beat this beast.

In late summer, at a routine regular visit with MDAnderson, doctors noticed a nine centimeter tumor — one they should have seen during his previous checkup in October 2010, when it was five centimeters. Somehow this bugger escaped detection at that visit and grew. By the time the doctors saw it this past summer, it had grown and become affixed to his spine and a kidney. This time, because of metastasis, doctors could not operate.

The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog

While balancing his responsibilities, he began increasing his homeopathic regimen. This served him well during the years when the melanoma was somewhat inactive. He also sought out experts across the country to help.  At one point this past September, he told me he was seeing seven doctors to try to fight the disease. He had heard about an experimental stem cell treatment program in South Korea that was experiencing good results.

It was a two-month commitment. After undergoing a couple of radiation treatments here, Bill and wife, Lisa, flew to Seoul for the experimental treatment. Unfortunately, after the 22-hour flight to Korea, Bill caught a bug, which led to pneumonia. So, he began a grueling treatment for both pneumonia and the melanoma. All this, and the two of them were in a foreign country, hearing a foreign language, and nothing was familiar to them. Bill gained strength and began the stem cell treatments, which included a cyber knife radiation treatment and chemotherapy.

Bill and Lisa returned in late November and he was admitted to the hospital here in Dallas, fighting severe lung and chest infections, or sepsis. The doctors monitored the cancer, but the sepsis was of a very immediate concern. In the ICU, Bill was heavily sedated, on a ventilator, and underwent strong antibiotic treatment to quell the sepsis as quickly as possible. He was in ICU from November 23rd through December 26th. During this period family members gathered to support Bill and Lisa in any way possible. His friends from childhood, Steve and Paul, were in constant contact with Lisa while they were in Korea and since.

Currently, Bill is on morphine to minimize the pain. The cancer has spread to other organs.

I share this with you not to add Bill’s struggle to the countless others who have fought so tirelessly to beat cancer, but to paint a picture of pure raw courage.

Bill is the most courageous man I know.

As I sit here in the hospital room with Bill lying quietly in bed behind me, he reminds me of an 1818 painting by the German Romanticist, Caspar David Friedrich.  The painting is The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. For me, this painting represents the summation of 27 years of knowing and enjoying the friendship of this energetic figure.

A writer describing this masterpiece of German Romanticism said “it demonstrates mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of the individual within it. We see no face, so it’s impossible to know whether the prospect facing the young man is exhilarating, or terrifying, or both. Friedrich was a 19th-century painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world.”

The connection between Bill and Friedrich was nature. Bill loved hiking in Telluride, as well as the Andes. I camped with him once in the Adirondacks on a snowy Thanksgiving when the temps at the summit of the peak we climbed were calculated to be -21 degrees. Paul and Bill’s brother, Jim, can relate many, many more stories than I about Bill’s love of nature.

When I look at this painting, I always think of Bill. The defiant stance of the figure, standing solidly on the precipitous jagged rock balanced nimbly by a slim cane, looking outward as the sea and fog combine seamlessly to present an undefined horizon that appears to encroach upon the figure from all sides. There is something purely enigmatic that we don’t manage to see the face of the defiant figure. I imagine it is Bill’s face and he is smiling; smiling as if he is determined to find the perfect way to move from his perch toward the far mountain and not suffer the perils presented by the fog (no clear path) and the sea (swirling eddies that engulfed many a less-experienced adventurer).

Yep, that’s Bill.

Bro, shortly it will be a new year. If I could ask you, I’m sure you would tell me with that welcoming smile that the fog is clearing, the sea is calming, and that far mountain is not nearly the challenge I think it is.

Go with God, Bill, and smile to be in His company.

Yesterday, as the world knows, Apple founder Steve Jobs died.

He died of complications of pancreatic cancer. He and I have this devastating disease in common.

If you have been following my treatment patterns for pancreatic cancer, you know that, for me, everything is stable right now. That is good and to God be the glory.

What follows is a CNN article that examines Jobs’ history of his treatment for pancreatic cancer. If you are even slightly interested in his kind of pancreatic cancer (very rare), his treatment patterns and his history of dealing with the disease, please read on. The more we all know about the difficulties of pancreatic cancer, the more we can take a step to fight it and overcome it for others. Rest in peace, Mr. Jobs.

Editor’s Note: The report was originally published August 25, 2011, the day after Steve Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO.

(CNN) — Steve Jobs has been notoriously private about his health, but as he steps down as CEO of the company he helped invent and re-invent, speculation abounds that he has gotten very sick.

In his resignation statement, he alludes to his inability to continue in his role at the company.

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come,” Jobs wrote in a letter addressed to the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community.

Neither Jobs nor the company has revealed concrete details of his condition. Based on the public information about his health history, there are many possibilities, including cancer recurrence and liver transplant rejection.

Steve Jobs: From college dropout to tech visionary

Jobs revealed in 2004 that he had a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, kind of pancreatic cancer that tends to grow slowly. It’s relatively uncommon, representing only 5% of all pancreatic tumors. Diagnosis usually happens when the cancer has advanced; tumors are often detected after the cancer has spread to the liver, said Dr. Craig Devoe, pancreatic cancer specialist at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, New York, who did not treat Jobs.

Treatment options include surgery, hormone replacement, chemotherapy and radiation.

A closer look at Steve Jobs’ health

In a rare moment of openness about his condition, Jobs revealed a few details of his diagnosis in a 2005 speech at Stanford University’s commencement ceremony.

Jobs recalled having a scan one morning in 2003 that showed a tumor in his pancreas and doctors telling him “this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months.”

“Later that evening, I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope, the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery, and I’m fine now.”

But the timing wasn’t that clear-cut. In between diagnosis and surgery, he pursued an alternative therapy approach for nine months, hoping a special diet would allow him to avoid surgery, according to a 2008 Fortune magazine article.

On July 31, 2004, at the Stanford University Medical Clinic in Palo Alto, California, Jobs underwent surgery to remove his tumor.

“This weekend I underwent a successful surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from my pancreas,” Jobs wrote in an e-mail to Apple’s staff the next week. “I will be recuperating during the month of August, and expect to return to work in September.”

Reports have suggested that this surgery was a Whipple procedure, a complex operation that involves removing the “head” of the pancreas in addition to the gallbladder and parts of the stomach, bile duct and small intestine. This can result in digestive problems and weight loss.

“The hope is that you remove all visible disease,” Devoe said.

A timeline of Steve Jobs’ career

Steve Jobs resigns as CEO of Apple

Tim Cook new Apple CEO

Apple’s future without Steve Jobs

Jobs said in January 2009 that doctors said he dropped so much weight because of “a hormone imbalance that has been ‘robbing’ me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.”

The former CEO never disclosed any more details; doctors unaffiliated with his care said a variety of conditions could have caused the weight loss, including cancer and diabetes.

If related to his a recurrence of his cancer, a pancreatic tumor would typically lead to an overproduction of hormones including glucagon, which results in weight loss if produced in excess, Dr. Jeffrey Mechanick said in 2009. Mechanick, a clinical professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, was not involved in Jobs’ care.

That same year, Jobs underwent a liver transplant in Tennessee. Dr. James D. Eason of Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute announced in June 2009 that “Mr. Jobs is now recovering well and has an excellent prognosis.”

The odds are against the pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor cancer patient who has a liver transplant, but close to half of the patients may be free of cancer four to five years after the transplantation, said Dr. Simon Lo, director of the Pancreatic and Biliary Diseases Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who did not treat Jobs.

Still, relatively few liver transplants have been performed as a treatment for neuroendocrine tumors, making it a somewhat experimental option, Devoe said. If the patient has a lot of disease in the liver, it can extend life, but there’s no guarantee that this will remove all of the cancer remaining in the body.

And immunosupression drugs required after a liver transplant could allow any remaining cancer to grow faster, Devoe said.

In rare cases, immune suppression itself can also cause cancer, said Dr. James Yao, oncologist at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who has not treated Jobs.

On the bright side, there are two new cancer drugs that have been approved this year that may apply to someone in Jobs’ situation, experts say.

Everolimus is available to treat pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors and prevents transplant rejection. But there are serious potential side effects, which may include lung or breathing problems, infections and renal failure, which may lead to death.

Sunitinib malate is prescribed for the treatment of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, kidney cancer and GIST, a rare cancer of the bowel, esophagus or stomach. This too carries its risks; it can cause liver problems and death.

“The good news that this is an area where there are a lot of advances,” Yao said.

Today, I had my routine six-week visit with my oncologist. For every three months with Dr. T, I have a CT scan and blood test. At other times, I routinely have just a blood test.

When I have the blood test, they are looking at the C-19 marker to determine any issues associated with my pancreatic cancer.

So, it was a bit of a surprise to me earlier today when I met with Dr. T and he said, “Regarding the blood test you had last week, I have some good news and some bad news.”

I caught my breath. “Well, let’s have it.”

“Derek, if you look at your blood test, page one and most of page two is good news. But do you see anything unusual on the report?”  He handed the blood test report to me and I looked at it. Frankly, it was just medical report gobbledygook. Certainly, it would be a stretch to call this anything remotely close to English.

“Look at the bottom of page 2,” he said.

I saw at the bottom that there was a negative for the C27 antigen, not the c19.

‘I thought you checked the c19 antigen, right?”

“Yes. That’s the bad news,” Dr. T said.

“What bad news?”

“The lab company made a mistake. They should have checked for the c19 antigen, but they checked for the c27 antigen instead. Our mistake,” he said.


“And, this is a routine test to determine breast cancer,” he said, somewhat stoically.

‘Well, that’s not bad news. It strikes me that you’ve just cleared me of any symptoms of breast cancer,” I said.

I walked out of the office feeling pretty damn good.

Last week, I had a CT scan and blood work in anticipation of a meeting with my oncologist, Dr. Alan Trumbly, today.

Patti and I just got back and the report is good. As Dr. Trumbly said, “Look at your scan report. I’ve not seen the word STABLE show up in a CT scan report this much in quite some time.”

He went on to say that the scan and blood work show that the tumors in the pancreas and liver are immobile and … stable. My liver continues to be 100% operational.

There is a very slight elevation in one of my tumor markers in the blood work, but the doc said that is it minuscule. As Dr. Trumbly keeps saying to Patti and me: “Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working.”

Thanks to all of your for your prayers. That is probably what’s working more than anything I am doing. God bless you all.

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