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Cancer Care Chronicles
September 14, 2017

The Difficult Transition

Author Affiliations
  • 1Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill
JAMA Oncol. Published online September 14, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.2669

In our family, 48-hour infusions were planned around tennis matches, surgical procedures strategically scheduled to not interfere with vacations, and general treatment strategies constantly balanced between likelihood of helping and not interfering with quality of life: 2 months after a left lower lung resection, my mom went skiing in Vermont; 2 weeks after a right breast mastectomy, she flew to Colorado; 7 days after brain radiation, she was doing the StairMaster in Aspen. We watched home infusion pumps go from large, laptop-sized bags to something as small as an iPhone, at least 4 cycles of “hair today, gone tomorrow,” and new combinatorial therapies tried, which had extended the average “life expectancy” from 4 months to 6 months when we were 10 years from diagnosis. Although we were unsure if our mom would make it to my bat mitzvah 8 months after her Whipple surgery in 2001, she beamed as she watched all 3 of us graduate college over the next decade. Mom’s vivaciousness surpasses any words worth writing: she was a beautiful and strong woman who just happened to have pancreatic cancer.

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