It all started with a phone call…

“Teona, it’s Dr. Lee. I found something on your CT scan this morning that I could not have predicted. There’s a mass in your pancreas. I need you to get to a surgeon right away. Worst-case scenario—it might be cancer. I’m sorry.”

Ironically, that call came on April Fools’ Day, 2016, but it was far from a joke. What started out as an annoying stomach ache had now turned into a possible cancer diagnosis.

Just moments earlier, Teona Ducre was enjoying a cool spring day with her friend, and now she was trying to wrap her head around the individual words: mass, pancreas, cancer. While the call with her doctor lasted just a few minutes, her heart was dropping. She didn’t know much about pancreatic cancer except that people don’t often survive it.

Teona gathered herself enough to thank her doctor for the call, and assured her she would contact the surgeon. Her doctor reminded her it was imperative to make contact immediately, and that she had already shared the test results. When one receives life-altering news, the mind has a way of protecting itself. Teona said, “I remember hanging up the phone, smiling at my friend and simply saying, ‘Well it’s a mass; might be cancer. Gotta get to a surgeon ASAP. Ready for lunch?’”

A teacher, Teona’s spring break took a sudden turn from watching sunsets and sipping wine. The next two weeks were spent at an array of doctor appointments that included two different surgeons, blood work to determine tumor markers (the first step in diagnosing cancer) and a PET scan to determine if there were signs of masses anywhere else in the body. That was followed by two weeks of outpatient appointments to have an endoscopy biopsy and to insert the port.

As you can imagine, Teona wasn’t thrilled with any of this. But she says, “I sucked it up with a smile and a pep in my step knowing life had changed and this is where I was now.” Thirty days after that initial call, she began chemo and life really took on a whole new meaning. Things had changed; some for the better.

Since that day, she has been bound and determined to not let cancer steal her joy. In fact, it has become her signature hash tag on most of her social media posts. The one thing Teona decided that very first day is that she would live as normally as possible, and she would live boldly. Teona refused to let a pancreatic cancer diagnosis ruin her life.

Looking back, Teona was stunned at how everything and everyone lined up so perfectly for her benefit. 
She was diagnosed at stage 2 after experiencing a month-long stomach ache. Unfortunately, many pancreatic cancer patients aren’t diagnosed until stage 4, because they don’t show symptoms until then. While that was her only symptom, it was bad enough that her friend saw how horrible she looked and urged her to see a doctor. Like many, Teona protested about taking time off and the expense. But one night, the pain was so excruciating that it had her laying down in the bathtub at 2 a.m. with the hot shower running on her tummy trying to alleviate the pain.

Reluctantly, she scheduled an appointment the following day. And by the time of her appointment, she had done what so many of us do…self-diagnosed. She thought she had an ulcer. Her doctor felt it was reasonable, but probed further and sent her for a CT scan. Teona said her own stubbornness nearly ruined her when she found out the cost of the scan would be $1000 with insurance. But again, thanks to her mom’s wisdom, she had the scan. And she’s grateful she did, because she doesn’t know where she’d be today if she wasn’t diagnosed so early.

Where is Teona today? As of last week, she celebrated the two year anniversary of her remission!!
Teona shared with us how grateful she is for an astute doctor who didn’t take any chances, for friends who cared enough to tell her she needed to seek medical help, and for her mother who still parents her when she’s not thinking logically. So here she is…she beat cancer and she’s purposeful about living a healthFULL life. Cancer didn’t—and never will—steal her joy.

Has Teona’s story touched you?

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