Saturday, November 15, 2008

Life Changing Experience

Life is such a precious gift--and as much as you know this, you don't understand the real meaning of this gift until something happens that drastically affects its preciousness. As I begin this story about my love Franco, I can honestly say that things are still somewhat surreal. For as long as I've known Franco, he has always been somebody who cares for himself, others and this earth, as much as possible. He knows how blessed that he is and does all that he can to show appreciation for what he has been given in life. Therefore, you can't help but ask, why would something like this happen to Franco? I do believe that there is a reason--one that we will only figure out as we take this journey. What we've already learned in this short time is that we are not alone. God is with us. And so are an amazing group of family and friends. We deeply appreciate all the love, support, help and prayers that have already been shared. And we want to share back with all of you the details of our journey through this blog as a way of keeping you close.

As many of you know, Franco was training to run the NYC marathon on November 2, 2008--his 42nd birthday! About 2 weeks prior to the race, he started not feeling quite right. He was nauseous and tired, and noticed dark urine. He went to the doctor and they thought he had a combination of some kind of virus and rhabdomyolosis--a condition that sometimes affects marathon runners. Later that week, he realized that his eyes and skin were turning yellow. He was jaundiced. The results of an ultrasound and CT scan indicated a mass in the head of his pancreas, obstructing his common distal bile duct. This is what was causing the jaundice. On 10/31 he had a procedure called an ERCP where they sent a camera down, took biopsy samples and placed a stent in his bile duct to open the constriction caused by the mass. The stent was placed successfully, but the biopsies turned out to be inconclusive. What we learned is that biopsies can confirm the presence of cancer--but a negative (inconclusive) result can not confirm the absence of cancer. Since the mass was relatively small (approx 2 cm) and appeared to be localized (meaning it didn't seem like there was possible cancer elsewhere)--we were referred to a surgical oncologist. We learned that approx 90% of masses in the pancreas are malignant--so this was "cancer until proven otherwise". But since the doctor was directing us to a surgical oncologist for removal--this was excellent news. Because as we learned, most cases of pancreatic cancer do not present themselves until the cancer is at a late stage--and surgery is usually not an option then. And surgery is the only cure.

So as you might imagine--our search for information and doctors to fight this potential disease began. And we never could have imagined how expedited our search would become, with the help of so many people at Merck. Through friends, colleagues and Merck doctors that we don't even know--we received recommendations for hospitals and names of specific surgical oncologists. And in several cases, with the help of Merck doctors, we've gotten expedited appts. And several Merck doctors have also taken the time to talk to us about the disease and given us advice and direction. It's all so wonderfully unbelievable. We can not nearly express all the gratitude we feel for all of the Merck people that have helped us thus far.

In the mean time, Franco was scheduled for another ERCP on Monday, 11/17. They were again going to biopsy the mass to see if we could get a diagnosis. But things didn't go quite as planned. This past week Wednesday (11/12), Franco began suffering from severe abdominal pain. He went to the ER and through a series of tests, it was determined that the pain was likely due to the stent. So they moved up his ERCP to Thursday (11/13)--and confirmed that the stent was blocked and an infection was starting. That was the cause of his pain. They replaced the stent with a wider one, to avoid more blockage. And they also performed additional biopsies--and we have now learned that Franco does have pancreatic cancer. While we were expecting that this was the case, the reality of the situation is heavy. Fortunately, both by the hands of God and those of our family and friends--we are being held up high to fight this battle. Franco has been amazingly positive and I am in awe of his strength and will. I know, in particular, it's due to that which he loves most--his beautiful Ana and Noah. Together, the four of us make an excellent team and we will fight to win.

We had the fortune to meet with Dr. David August, the Head of Surgical Oncology from the Cancer Institute of NJ, while Franco was in the hospital (whom originally we couldn't even get an appt with until Dec 18)--which makes me believe that things really do happen for a reason. Additionally, we have an appt on Tuesday with Dr. Michael Jarnagin (Vice Chair, Surgical Services, Dept of Surgery; Chief of Hepatopancreatobiliary Services at Memorial Sloan-Kettering) and on Thursday with Dr. Charles Yeo (Samuel D. Gross Professor and Chair of Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University's Jefferson Medical College in PA). Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we go through the decision making process for selecting the surgical oncologist to do this very complex surgery.

We will continue to keep you all posted. Thanks for all the positive thoughts, prayers and kindness. It makes an unbelievable difference in our lives.

With much love and gratitude,
Jacquelyn

38 comments:

jsfirst said...

Really beautifully written. Our love and prayers are with you, as are we...the Firsts

awats125 said...

We love you and are hugging you close to our hearts. Amber, Bill, Brady and Jersey

LisaCooney said...

much love to you both, always, always, always. See you soon.

claudia said...

Franco and Jax,
I dont know what to say. I am stunned as Im sure you guys have been but I really admire your strength and courage. We love you guys and are thinking of you often during this challenging time and are here for you if you ever need anything. We're great babysitters! (Seriously, if you have any appointments or anything and you need us to take the kids, Lily would be more than thrilled to have 2 playmates). You guys will get through this, we know you will. Love, Claudia and Dan

AllenY said...

We know that you have the strength to move through this difficult part in your life. The love and warmest thoughts from your family and friends are your constant companion. With love...

Kathleen said...

Words can not express what I am feeling right now... I just want you to both to know that you are in our thoughts and prayers and on our minds daily... If there is ANYTHING you need, please call. Please do... You are always there for us and we want you to know that we are here for you now. We will keep in the positive frame of mind... I know that all will be fine. You are both strong fighters and will get through this.
Just know you are not alone... HE is with you as well as all your family and friends. We love you! Love always, Kathleen, Ralph and Hunter

newellstuff said...

Franc & Jax - i almost don't know what to say - my heart is so full - my eyes are too...i'm with you, WE are all with you. You will win - and we will help you along the way. i'm amazed at your ability to not only keep cool but write so eloquently at this time, me - not so much...in fact it's hard to put any of my thoughts about this into words..but it's in my heart, and in my prayers. When you need help - with the kids, or anything - please call - or call for no reason at all...i love you both my dear friends,
lizzy

fran said...

In our prayers every moment of the day........

We love you.

Rob, Fran, Nick and Jessica

Michelle said...

Dear Franco & Jacquelyn,

My deepest prayers and thoughts are with you. The courage and resilience that you both have is so clear. Hold on to that, each other, and everyone around you. Please do not ever hesitate to call me if there is anything I can ever do to help.
Love and Respect -
Michelle Aversano & Family

Karen Rita said...

Lisa sent me this link. I send you love and light, healing and health. I wish I was closer...
Karen Bradbury

Valerie said...

You now have prayers from Tennesse. I too - believe in the power of prayer. Please allow the Holy Spirit to carry you through and to wrap His arms around you - and to allow this comfort to settle inside you.....
Prayer for confidence in the doctor's hands, and knowledge in the doctor's mind and heart...
And prayer for the Angels to take over for your children- to teach them how to be angels during this time! :-)
We are friends of Jacquelyn's father,
Valerie & Bob Rule
Knoxville, TN

Ana said...

If there is ANYTHING I can do, please call me. I can take the kids to singalong...or just a playdate. Dinner, how about dinner...can I bring you some? My love to you all.

Ana, Scott, Jack and Emma Shannon

Margo said...

I've always said God only tests the strong ones he knows will pull through. I believe this is one of those times. Please know you are in my heart and on my mind always. I am very pleased to read you are taking an active role in the diagnosis and even happier to read you are getting the best care. You deserve the best.
Positive attitude goes a long way my friend! I love you!

IronWally said...

I'm with you. My thoughts & prayers to you.

Walt Skrinski

Julianne and Bobby said...

Thank you Jacqueline for sharing your thoughts and journey with all of us. Of course we will pray, wisdom for the drs, strength and comfort for Franco, freedom from anxiety for you and the kids, stamina to help you all through the days/weeks/months/years to come! I would like to offer these words of encouragement "God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ Our Lord, is FAITHFUL" 1 Cor 1:9 Hope in Him...Love and hugs to all, Julianne and Bobby

cindy said...

I was shocked by the news... My thoughts and prayers are with both of you… I believe that you will WIN the battle, with your strength, courage and the support from your family and friends. If you need any help please let me know.
Love
Cindy Na & Family

Jane Jiayi said...

Jackqulin, thank you for sharing this with us. It was very inspiring to see you adn the whole family working as a team to fight this battle together with the grace adn strength from our almighty Lord. Things happen with a reason. MAy Lord's grace, peace and joy beign with you four in this difficult time. You are in our prayer from Merck Toastmaster club! Love ! Jane Behan

Danny Y said...

We are thinking of you always. God will give you all the strength you need.
Danny, Lisa, Luke & Natalie

Edward Skira said...

Our thoughts and prayers are with you now. Please let us know if there's anything that we can do for you.

Love,

Ed, Nada & Alexandra.

Michael Schreiber said...

Thanks so much for doing this post. Despite the inherent crappiness of this, it's inspiring to see this kind of strength. We're taking your lead, thinking good thoughts, praying, and just thinking of you all. We love you guys. Vanessa, Mike & Rea

rangerserik1 said...

Franco, I just heard from Kathleen! I want you to know that I am praying hard for all of you. I'm glad to hear that you are keeping a very positive front and that's more than half the battle! You hang in there, man and if you need anything and I mean anything, you better call me, you hear? If anyone can beat this thing it's you!

Jacquelyn, if you need a hand with anything, anything at all to help out, big or mundane, you let me know! I work right across the river from you, so I can be there in 10 minutes if you need it.

God be with all of you and grant you the strength to overcome and persevere!

MurphGuide.com said...

Franco,
I just heard the news.

We are sending you positive vibes to fight this thing. You will prevail!

love,
Sean, Jeannie & Colleen Murphy

Lisa and Stephen said...

Dear Franco and Jacquelyn: Steve and I were so heartbroken to hear from the Leroys about the diagnosis. Our thoughts and constant prayers are with you. We know you are fighters and will prevail. Please please let us know if there is anything at all that we can do. All our very best, love, Lisa and Stephen, Liam and Kiera

blueisola said...

Franco and Jacquelyn... I am obviously stunned to just catch wind of this disheartening news. But your words are a comfort that your hearts are strong and true and you will all see this through with great hope and love. Yes, my warmest wishes of concern, faith, and hope to you and your little ones. Beat this selfish beast! *luke*

Noelly said...

Dear Franco

Marg sent me your email. If anyone can beat this, it's you. Your strong spirit and love for life will get you through. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers....always.

Love, Noelly, Pete and Christopher

Jim and Kimberly Bergan said...

Dear Franco & Jacquelyn,
We are so saddened by your news. Jim speaks so highly of Franco and we are once again struck by how unfair these things are. At the same time with so much love, faith and support we have no doubt this is one obstacle you shall overcome. PLEASE, we would love to help in any way possible, just let us know what we can do. God bless and know you are in our thoughts and prayers each day.
Jim and Kimberly Bergan

megalli said...

When Seth prayed for you after choir practice a couple of weeks ago I was very saddened by the news but didn't know who "Franco" was except that he's the father of two year old twins. Today I learn that it's you two! I know you from Music Together and church, Zahra's mom. I'm shocked! You are the ever smiling couple with super cute kids! You will always be in my prayers. I know somebody who went through this before but it was too late for surgery so the fact that Franco is a good candidate is very hopeful. You are more than welcome to stay in our apt. in NY during hospital stays, for you or extended family. Do not hesitate to let me know.

Jessica said...

You are in our thoughts and prayers every day! We love you.
Jeremy, Jessica and Michael

Dan said...

Franco and Jacquelyn, I found out yesterday and cannot even describe the pain and shock I feel. Franco, you are one of the most positive and life loving people I know. I am sure you will beat this challenge my friend. I want you all to know that you are not alone, you are in our prayers and thoughts. If there is anything we can do to help, please please let us know

Natasha, Dan, Ajay and Anjalee

Meredith Francis said...

Franco and Jacquelyn,
Our prayers and thoughts are with you all the way from Tennessee, and I hope you can feel them when you wrap yourselves in the prayer shawls from church!
With love,
Meredith and Matthew

Kathy Devine said...

Franco and Jacquelyn, my heart and prayers go out to you both! May God give you the strength to keep going with your positive attitude, and for your beautiful Ana and Noah. I pray that you stay strong on this journey. You're fighting spirit and positive attitudes are something to be admired. I'm so incredibly glad that you have access to the best of the best at Merck for advice and referrals. I have relied on so many wonderful people at Merck in the past, and it's beautiful to see that some of the most incredibly talented doctors we are surrounded by will drop everything to lend some advice. November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and the color is purple. I will wear my purple proudly for you Franco, and your fight. Please let me know if I can do anything at all. Lauren is a very able babysitter, who would jump at the chance to spend time with Ana and Noah!!
-Kathy Devine

Rali said...

Franco and Jacquelyn,
We are in pain and shock by this news. Franco, my friend, life is full of ups and downs. You are a strong and a positive person, you will win. You are in our thoughts and daily prayers, may God be on your side and grant you the strength to overcome his test. My friends, if there is anything we can do to help please do not hesitate to let us know.
Riad Ali and Family

Valerie said...

Franco & Jacquelyn,
My favorite saying:
"The link between man and God is FAITH. That is all that keeps things moving and alive. Happiness keeps you sweet, trials keep you strong, sorrows keep you human, failures keep you humble, success keeps you glowing, BUT ONLY GOD KEEPS YOU GOING! Keep the faith!
We have you on our prayer list at church,
Bob & Valerie Rule, Tennessee

Gizmo said...

I just found out today! I am shocked, stunned, and extremely saddened. I ride the train with him to work everyday. He has always been such a cheerful, positive guy. Franco, don't give up! This is just so wrong....

My prayers go out to the both of you.

Pete Z

Melissa said...

Franco and Jacquelyn,
All our prayers as you make your way through this life-changing experience. Consider it another marathon, and you have the wonderful support of many, many friends and family to make it through! We are thinking of you!
--Bob & Melissa

Istrian said...

Dear Franco
Like everybody else we are shocked and saddened by this news. Marissa is away in DC now, and was very upset when she heard. We all pray for you and are here to help you summon the strength to battle this affliction.
Our love to you, Jackie, and the kids. Dino, Chris, Marissa, Olivia, and Christopher

Allison Parlapiano said...

Hi,
I just wanted to say that I have been thinking about you guys a lot and praying for you too. I am so glad the surgery went well and I am praying for a very speedy recovery. Thanks for having the blog, its nice to know how you guys are doing! Thinking of you,
--Al :-)

Susanna Kolich said...

Dear Franco, we wish you a speedy recovery. You are in our prayers.
Susanna Paliska Kolich and family from Florida