Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer death. It has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. Nancy Naeve Brown met a Sioux Falls man who has been in the fight of his life since being diagnosed with cancer in January 2010 and hopes to be one the 6% of patients who live longer than 5 years.
Instead of being tickled pink on New Years Eve Larry Sopoci (pronounced: suppose-zee) turned yellow. He knew he needed to get to a doctor which is a good thing because that jaundice lead him to the Avera Cancer Institute, Oncologist Dr. Mark Huber and the discovery he had stage 3 pancreatic cancer that was growing quickly.
Larry says, "Originally when this started, I was supposed to be dead by the first of May."
Dr. Mark Huber with Avera Medical Group Hematology and Oncology says, "Larry was first diagnosed in January. He had an attempted surgery but because the tumor is wrapped around some blood vessels he is unable to get the tumor out. "
Larry tells us, "I did radiation for 7 weeks, chemo, I carried a pump for 7 weeks and at the end they took me off everything for a couple of weeks."
Now Larry comes to one of the infusion suites at the Avera Cancer Institute for chemo therapy once a week for about an hour and a half.
Larry says, "I'm going to have to live with this for as long as I have. I went to the surgeon yesterday and he said had I not started my chemo treatment when I did I'd have less than a year."
Dr. Huber says, "His scans continue to look better, stable to better."
Unfortunately, because of where the tumor is located it's still inoperable.
Larry says, "I feel good. You have to keep a positive attitude on this or it will eat you alive."
The hope is the weekly chemo will eventually shrink what's left of the tumor down to nothing and it dies. And hope is what you have to have when you are dealing with a deadly cancer like this. Larry gets that hope and continued support from his wife, his children and his doctors. We too hope he continues his fight and wins.
Doctors say the biggest risk factor for pancreatic cancer is smoking. The biggest red flag is turning yellow. When that happens you should see a doctor as soon as possible.