Meet Mary Kent Ellis, a 44-year-old wife and a mother to three young girls, who was recently diagnosed with stage one pancreatic cancer. We invite you to learn why she says there are worse things than having pancreatic cancer.
Mary Kent’s journey began after suffering her third miscarriage. A woman with strong faith, she prayed for an answer for the loss and shortly thereafter began experiencing an unusual pain in her abdomen. The pain would get worse after eating but wasn’t severe enough to impact her normal daily routine. Unsure of the origin of the pain, her husband strongly encouraged her to see her doctor.
Even though all routine labs and tests came back normal, Mary Kent’s doctor ordered a CT scan to check for gall stones, kidney stones or ulcers. The day of her CT scan, Mary Kent was surprised when she received a call from her doctor urging her to return to his office immediately to discuss the results.
When she arrived her doctor showed her the scan, which revealed a shadow on her pancreas. After explaining how serious it could be and encouraging Mary Kent to see a specialist, her doctor prayed with her. Mary Kent had always lived a very healthy lifestyle—exercising regularly and eating organic foods. There was no pancreatic cancer in her family, so she was surprised she might be facing pancreatic cancer.
Over the next few days, Mary Kent would have an MRI and an endoscopic ultrasound biopsy. And just as Mary Kent had hoped, the biopsy came back from pathology as not malignant.
Mary Kent consulted with two medical teams at two leading regional medical institutions and received two different opinions. Faced with conflicting guidance, Mary Kent turned to prayer and ultimately made the decision to undergo surgery. Her medical team at Piedmont Healthcare, including Dr. Shep Dunlevie, Dr. Andrew Page, and Dr. Preston Stewart, felt very strongly that she should have the tumor removed immediately.
On March 26, 2018, Dr. Page performed a distal pancreatomy and splenectomy. The initial pathology report was wrong. Mary Kent had pancreatic cancer—an invasive adenocarcinoma. She was about to start a long “journey” to recovery.
Only 75 days after surgery, she began the next phase of her recovery. Her medical team at The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Piedmont Healthcare utilized precision medicine to tailor one of the most aggressive chemotherapy regimens for pancreatic cancer. Developed by TGen in Scottsdale, AZ, the treatment would be directed and administered at Piedmont Cancer Institute in Atlanta.
Anyone who has been through chemotherapy understands how exhausting it can be, but Mary Kent never lets it get her down. She says, “There are worse things than having pancreatic cancer. It puts your entire life into perspective. The little things just don’t matter anymore.”
Mary Kent knows that all of us face challenges and this is her current challenge that she faces with strength, integrity, optimism and strong faith. She says that this trial has only strengthened and deepened her faith and passion for life.
Mary Kent feels gratitude for what this experience has given her—quality time with the people she loves most and the importance of an impactful life. She enjoys her husband bringing her breakfast in bed every day now. He sits with her at chemo for 10+ hours on Mondays and she relishes their time together as she listens in to his conference calls and watches him work. Her friends and family have been very supportive by forming a MealTrain, sitting with her during her recovery, forming prayer circles and laughing with Mary Kent. Over 30 of her friends and family joined her for the Purple Parade, a 5k run/walk benefiting Destroy Pancreatic Cancer.
Mary Kent doesn’t focus on pancreatic cancer statistics. She has an unwavering faith that she’s going to be cured. Her recent CT scans reaffirm her faith as they show “no evidence of disease.”
You might be wondering how Mary Kent feels about being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after losing her baby to miscarriage. We wondered, too. She says, “That baby saved my life, and I can’t wait to love on him or her one day. People don’t believe me, but I feel really happy and blessed.”
As Mary Kent was sharing her story of hope, she offered the following verse as one that gives her strength.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Has Mary Kent’s Story Touched You?
We’re fighting to Destroy Pancreatic Cancer so that people won’t continue to suffer. Clinical trials offer real hope to patients and their families. Evidence proves that survival rates double when patients receive care under a pancreatic cancer clinical trial.
Please consider making a donation today and know that your generous contribution helps us fund these much-needed clinical trials in Atlanta.