“My first reaction was shock, then fear that it wouldn’t be curable. But I refused to just give up. I chose hope, and I began researching treatment options that would give me the best chance to beat this disease,” recalls Falhaber, then 55.
By November, he connected with a community-based oncologist and underwent a two-drug chemotherapy regimen followed by radiation therapy in conjunction with a second round of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor.
“At the time, my tumor was too large. Surgery wasn’t an option, and cure wasn’t possible without surgery,” adds Falhaber.
By chance during his treatment, Falhaber met Susan Pavlech—founder of the GIVEHOPE Pancreatic Cancer Awareness and Research Fund—who introduced him to University of Cincinnati (UC) Cancer Institute surgical oncologist Syed Ahmad, MD. Pavlech established GIVEHOPE in 2010 to support pancreatic cancer research and awareness after her best friend was diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer. Together with BSI Engineering, the organization has raised $50,000 for pancreatic cancer research at UC.
In the spring of 2012, Falhaber’s tumor was deemed operable. Although he got a second opinion out of state, he chose to have surgery at UC Health University Hospital. On July 13, 2012, Ahmad performed a Whipple procedure to remove the pancreas, gallbladder, part of the duodenum (uppermost portion of the small intestine), a small portion of the stomach and the lymph nodes near the head of the pancreas. Follow-up pathology and imaging indicated he is now cancer-free.
“God took care of me and guided my doctors. I was fortune that my cancer responded to treatment to make surgery a possibility. That isn’t typical for most people who deal with this disease,” says Falhaber. “We need an early detection tool to help catch the disease earlier, and that will only be possible with more research and funding to support it.”
Falhaber is now actively involved with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a nationwide group of people dedicated to working together to advance research, support patients and create hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer.
“If I had one message for other people facing pancreatic cancer, it would be to not give up hope and be your own advocate. Get a second opinion, consider clinical research trials, put your boxing gloves on and keep fighting,” adds Falhaber.
For more information about the UC Cancer Institute multidisciplinary gastrointestinal team, visit uccancer.com. To learn more about clinical trials, including phase-1 experimental studies, call 513-584-7698 or click here.
Patient Info: To reach surgical oncology, call 513-584-8900. For hematology oncology, call 513-584-8500. For radiation oncology, call 513-475-3494.