2. The Whipple, Post-Op, and Complications
Jason: Welcome back to the Mo Chronicles: navigating pancreatic cancer.
This episode picks up with Mo as she undergoes, what is considered the Magnum Opus of a cancer surgeons, repertoire, the Whipple surgery.
Okay. We are here to talk about your pancreatic cancer journey and where we're at right now in the story is you've qualified for the Whipple surgery from a gentleman named dr. Jarnagin up at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York city,
Mo: which made me very happy,
Jason: which made you very happy. You're back in Florida, you live in South Florida, and it sounds like you have about a two week period to wait until dr. Jarnagin, gets back from his overseas conference for your surgical dates. And I'm just curious what, what happened during those two weeks? What, what did you know, what were you thinking? What emotions did you feel? What did you do to pass that time?
Mo: well, first of all, I found a general physician. Oh primary care, which was very exciting.
very nice man. little crusty, however, very nice. he evaluated it, the preliminary reports that I had gave him and he said,
Jason: We'll refer to him as Dr. Crusty,
Mo: dr. Crusty not going to use his name, but he's probably obviously very good. Yeah, came highly, highly recommended. And he said, he thought I stood a pretty good chance at this because, I was healthy
Jason: because you were healthy.
Mo: He believed that I had a good chance of a surviving the Whipple and, and he didn't go past the Whipple.
So he was just saying, you have a chance of surviving the surgery. That's pretty sobering. Because the alternative is that you would not survive even the surgery.
I assume that at that point that I would sacrifice,
Jason: Because all he was willing to say is, I think you will survive the surgery in two weeks.
Mo: In the, in the time I was with him, he said sucks three time and shit, four times he kept saying this sucks.
Jason: Usually you don't hear a doctor say that was pretty serious.
Mo: He put me on, Well, obviously my blood pressure was probably through the ceilings.
They put me on a tiny, tiny, tiny dose of blood pressure medicine. And so I went and I, bill got it fills for me. And bill came home and this was probably one of the low points Bill, my, my fiance.
Mo: He picks up the low dose of blood pressure medicine. He brings it back and he says to me, This dose is a dose they would give a cat. Why would we give such a large woman, such a low dose of blood pressure medicine? And I remember thinking I do not. I mean, I remember my eyes filling. I'm thinking you just call me fat. I don't need this, but I just thought I'd share that. So I went on this medication until the Whipple. Okay.
Jason: So for the two week period, Is there anything that you did to get ready for the surgery?
Mo: Just getting my ducks in line, getting my work done. I wanted it to be done. My clients taken care of things.
Jason: It wasn't like getting your life affairs together.
Mo: I didn't get my life affairs, but I did get a power of attorney, medical power of attorney, which I assigned to you.
And Ken I think two of you? but no, I didn't.
Jason: So that was the extent of getting their affairs
Mo: No my affairs were not getting in order
Jason: from your perspective. Not much to see here. It's just a surgery, right? I'm not going to waste my time getting my affairs in order because it's not a big deal.
Mo: No I'll be back and then I'll get my affairs in order.
Jason: Now, in hindsight, do you think you were minimizing the definitely seriousness of that?
Mo: Definitely, but, you know, that's the way I rocked and rolled and did it, so.
I was much more concerned with how the house was going to be, that you know, that everything would be an order. The dog would be fine. You know, my bills would be paid.
Those were the things I was much more concerned with. I was not concerned with my health. Then I found out that I could not eat the day before, the day of travel. And the whole day before I could not eat. Yeah. That was a bummer to me because I wanted to go out to dinner with all you guys again, or the children were back
Mo: all six of you.
And I wanted to go out to my favorite Italian restaurant. Right. And I couldn't, that was.
Jason: Big disappointment. But I do remember that because Mo came in the night before and everybody was there. and so you have this Magnus, Opus surgery scheduled, which, you know, we all did research of course, on what is the Whipple. And what I found out was it's among the, if not the most complicated surgeries that exist for a surgeon and.
and so you're scheduled for the surgery the next morning, very early. We all go in. And you were obviously getting prepped for surgery in
Mo: I thought it was later in the day, but I might be wrong.
Jason: it was, yeah, it was, yeah. This was the 28th morning.
Mo: Was it the morning? Cause Jason, honest to goodness.
I was concerned about the time that he would be fresh, right? Maybe the surgery started,
Jason: the surgery started at one, but you got prepped.
Jason: Early in the morning. They asked you to get there very early, but you're right. That you actually went in later that they require blood work and scrubs and whatnot. So
Mo: wash a special thing, you have to buy and.
Jason: Okay. So you're there in Memorial Sloan Kettering in the surgical ward. And you have your sort of last moments with the family right before they take you off to go into the surgical room. What's going through your mind is in that moment with all your kids?
Mo: You want to know what my big fear was then.
Well, I suppose they opened me up and I don't qualify all these children flew in all this parade and all this for what I was so disappointed. Okay. So, you know,
Jason: Which is a very real possibility.
Mo: It was a possibility, I thought, Oh my gosh, all this for nothing. Okay. So that was my concern. So yes, I qualified, but will I pass the final test.
That was my big thing,
Jason: which you could do nothing.
And they did tell us
Mo: I couldn't study all night for this test. You know, I had to just sit there,
Jason: They did tell us in the middle of the surgery, that they would actually send a runner from the surgical room to let us know whether or not they were going to go through with the surgery.
So we were obviously waiting outside for that, communication as to whether or not they were going to do the Whipple or not. And so, but was there ever a feeling to go back to dr. Crusty that. Oh, wow. I, they could put me under and I may never wake up.
Mo: Yes there was, as they were wheeling me into the room and I'm not very familiar with operating rooms.
So all of this technology and equipment and people and, and noise, and it was cold and, you know, it was it's, rather, you know, overwhelming, but I do remember thinking for a brief moment that I may not make it.
Jason: And when, and when that, in that moment
Mo: I was okay. Okay. I prayed. Okay. Yeah.
Jason: That's okay.
Mo: Yeah, no, I said my prayers. I said, if I'm going home, I'm going home. Okay.
Jason: Yeah. It was interesting that I remember. Your six children, all of us sitting there when obviously you were in the hospital, you know, kind of moveable surgical bed. And it was interesting because we all said goodbye and good luck and whatever.
You'll be fine. Everybody's
fine. Everybody was very positive,
but there was a moment.
Jason: Yeah. There is a moment where you have to recognize that. There, you know, there are plenty of people that do not survive and in our granted these days, the likelihood of a successful surgery, meaning that you're, you know, you make it through intact is, is very, very high.
I believe. I don't know what the absolute percentage is, but it's still an incredibly complicated surgery such that there is risk. And so they put you under, obviously you're not awake for the next four or five, six, seven hours.
Jason: What would happen next?
Mo: When you wake up, you feel like you never went to sleep, you know that you're back and you kids were all around me.
Kept saying don't wear her out. And I thought, what can you wear out? And I'm laying here. Of course, I'm still under the influence of the anesthesia. So I didn't feel any pain. I'm thinking, wow, this was not really, this wasn't nothing. This was overdone. overdone.
Jason: That would prove to be an inaccurate statement.
Mo: And I stay probably in recovery for awhile, and then they moved me up to a room
Jason: in this all in Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Mo: And it was theirs. I don't believe there's any private rooms. So I was sharing a room with a woman and she liked the room. Very, very hot. Okay. So as I was coming out of this, so I'm sweating.
And of course, to me, I just thought, we'll just, if they just leave me alone, right. I'll heal. Right. Everything will be fine. And the, they got me through the night. I had a catheter and
Jason: right. Now I should say that before that night while you were under having the actual surgery.
Mo: Did you guys go out to dinner to my favorite Italian restaurant in New York again?
Jason: I don't believe we did. I do not believe we did. Maybe I, I forgot about dinner. What I remember very clearly is we were obviously all on pins and needles waiting for that communication as to whether or not they were able to go through with the surgery, the Whipple surgery. So, yeah. So when we got that indication, there was sort of a, sort of an initial deep sigh debrief of this is great.
They're actually now going to try and do the surgery to remove the top of your pancreas which contained the tumor. And then it was, great uncertainty for several hours as to. You know, I hope it's a successful surgery. I hope that everything goes well and that there isn't anything that goes in the other direction.
And so that's what I remember very clearly among the six of us, the six kids, just kind of every moment when it moved very, very slowly. And it's a long surgery, many, many, many, many hours. And so
Mo: I forgot to tell you, when I, when I, I said my prayer going into the surgery, my prayer was not so much that I would make it.
But I, my prayer was that for, Dr. Jarnagin and his team. Okay. Got it. Cause I knew it was in their hands and God.
Jason: Very, world-class all stars around you that day. So, so now you're sleeping your first night on Friday night in this very hot room and, and, and. Again, take, take me through that.
What's going on. You're just emerging from the slumber and the drugs
Mo: I'm coming around and the nurses are so good, so good. You know, and again, I'm not feeling very much. And then as you come back, you begin to feel pain. They give you a, a clicker that you can. hit for morphine. Yes. But it is timed click all you want, but it'll only release it.
Yeah. And then there's a certain number of minutes or whatever. So clicking. Okay. At one point, I remember saying holding the clicker and realizing the only thing that did not feel pain was my thumb. That was hitting the clicker. Everything else was in pain, everything
Jason: So you thought the clicker was broken.
Mo: I said, Oh my gosh, this isn't the only thing that works.
And I mean, literally it was an effort to blink. Yeah. Those were the only things
Jason: I remember very clearly. And this wasn't the first night, but this was a couple of days later where Jamie and I, my wife, your daughter in law. We came in and you wear glasses on often and back then you were wearing them quite a bit.
And. I remember seeing the glasses on the little tray, right in front of them, where they would put your food. And I remember an offhanded comment I made to you saying, don't you want to put your glasses on? And you looked at me and said, I can't.
Mo: It's too much effort. You asked me why I wasn't watching TV. And I said, I would have to use the remote. That is not gonna happen.
Mo: I just want to breathe. That's it.
Jason: That was my observation. I've never seen you obviously in that condition, but it was very clear that it was a great effort
Mo: link once for yes
Jason: to just be, to just be alive. It was great effort at that moment for you to just be able to,
Mo: and to me, one of the most humorous things that happened was when the nurse came in the next morning and said, dear, we're going to get you up now. and
Jason: it was Saturday, Saturday.
Mo: Yeah. Next day. We're going to get you up now and get you to the chair. And from the chair, then you can rest and then we will start you walking. And I remember thinking she is out of her mind, this is not going to happen. Can happen not to mention all the equipment.
Jason: Right. Right.
Mo: And I thought there is. And why, why would they need to move me to which chair? Yes. Because remember I'm not a big fan of exercise and that kind of stuff anyway.
Jason: So we're not doctors, we're not. Medically inclined. we'll just describe the Whipple as, taking a lot of stuff out,
Mo: gutting a deer,
Jason: gutting a deer. Let's just, and what, what are the, what's the, you know, kind of the residual effects of the Whipple surgery? So
Mo: it was big.
Mo: There was a big incision.
Jason: Okay. 6 inches? 8 inches? Type incision, probably about that. Right.
Mo: Probably about. Yeah.
Jason: 7-8 inches, something like that. North to south?
Mo: Yeah North to South. It didn't matter if it was this big or if it was this big. It imobilized me
Jason: They cut through your stomach muscles. They open up, they do things to your right. A duodenum, they do things to your, obviously pancreas
Mo: they re-plumb your whole body
Jason: they stretch things back when they put it together, et cetera. And then there's a big thing.
Mo: pictures of what they were going to do. Pre-surgery
Jason: that must've been fun.
Mo: It was fun. And you know what? I still saved those pictures and they're drawing and they're drawing in dr. Jarnagin's drawing and I'm thinking.
You know, I had no idea the placement of these organs, nor did I need to make that my new study,
Jason: So you have this big incision. And then more importantly, you have obviously incisions beneath the skin that are just freshly stitched tight. And now there's somebody saying, get out of bed, sit in the chair and then we're going to walk you around.
Jason: How did that go?
Mo: They got me into the chair, Jason. They left to my foot. With the help of God. They'll forget me. They're so busy and they'll leave me here. And that will be just fine. That would be just fine. All you want to do is sleep. Just be left, just left, alone and sleep. And sure enough.
Sure. As God made little green apples, they showed up again and they insisted I get up and walk around and I believe one, the goal was within two days or three days to be walking a mile a day,
Jason: a mile,
Mo: a mile.
Mo: They told me how one, I think exactly. I'm thinking I came in here. I don't walk a mile a day and now you want to cut me open and ship me out and give me a pole and walk me a mile.
Jason: And this is on the cancer floor at... was it just a pancreatic cancer floor, or was it overall cancer?
Mo: Overall cancer,
Jason: So you were on the cancer floor and walking.
Mo: Yeah. And this, and all you're seeing is people. Which are in various stages of surgery. Yeah. Which is not, it's not the happiest thing to say because you've started feeling sorry for other patients.
Jason: Of course, of course,
Mo: they moved me out of the, room with the woman that had insisted the room be at 84 degrees, which created a Petri dish basically of germs. But they moved me in with a lovely woman named Lynn who was younger than I, and my concern. And that was a good thing. Became. Her, she had cancer of the liver.
And, she was quite a bit younger than me. She was in her late forties. So sharing her family story, her situation in life. I got very involved in that and became very concerned with her. they were talking about possibly an additional surgery to take out part of her liver. And I somehow, my gosh, I hope that doesn't happen.
I hope that doesn't happen. Right. So, And that was a good thing to transfer to somebody else instead of self.
Jason: It's something that I know that all the kids that obviously we were there for you, that was remarkable to me to see. So many people with very serious cancers and their respective stories and their kids and their families.
And you realize how, how we're not alone. We're not alone. How the cancer family is remarkably large in this world. Right. And it's not a club. I should say that any of us wants to be a part of, but it is, has a lot of members to it. And yeah. And to see that floor of those miracle workers at Memorial Sloan Kettering and the patients, it is
Mo: extending life.
Jason: It is among the most impactful things I think you can ever be exposed to.
Mo: I don't know if you remember, but when I. I don't know, maybe my fourth lap around, irreverent children played chariots of fire.
Jason: Yes. I still have that video.
Mo: I will tell you I wanted to laugh so hard, but I hurt so bad.
All I could do was hold my stomach hold my stomach hold my stomach. Stop, stop. Stop. Don't say anything funny. Don't do anything funny. Just let me.
Jason: I still have that video. And we would, you were with your,
Mo: my pole
Jason: that had the intravenous fluids and, and we were Kenny and I were on either side of you, slow motion. And we were playing chariots of fire, laughing
staff, enjoying that point of view.
Mo: So hard, I thought, Oh my God, there's so irreverent. So irreverent,
Jason: so how long were you in the hospital? Because it was supposed to be a shorter time period. And then they extended your stay in
Mo: Actually what happened is, and I figured it out, or maybe I'm wrong. I probably did wrong on this, but my gut, my thinking is that they a) need the beds.
They don't want people to stay. And they tell you that they don't want you to stay there because the risk of infection, infection higher in the high school than it is outside. Now, they had no idea what outside was. Right. I could have been one living one step ahead of the board of health for all they knew.
But anyway, I bought the story I bought into it. So, and I think they're trying to shorten the stay for a Whipple surgery so that they can say 92% of the people go home in six days or five days or so obviously the trying to shrink that. So it looks better. I mean, it's all.
Jason: Yeah. I do believe that the data shows that. The less you were in a hospital with a procedure, the greater likelihood of success. History has shown that in terms of medical procedures.
Mo: Well, getting back into the real world with people and, and that's healthy, that's health.
Jason: So how long were you in?
Mo: I think I was in Jason five days, four days. And when they told me I was going out, I remember thinking, what did I do wrong?
Because I figured it out that if you don't void. You, they won't send you home and if you're vomiting, they won't send you home. Okay. But unfortunately I was not vomiting and I had voided, so that was it. I was going out like Monday morning's trash.
Jason: So you get pushed out. Now you live in Florida but the surger and the hospital is in New York city.
Where'd you go?
Mo: ou had kindly, you, children had found a place
Jason: or temporary apartment,
Mo: temporary apartment for bill and I to live until we got. Really cleared. That was the goal.
the cab ride, it was rough because there were bumps in the road. We got back to the apartment and, Jeff was there. Bill was there and they were hovering, you know?
And, you should eat something. Just let me sit, let me sit down. I don't need to do anything. Within five hours. I was back in the hospital. I had a fever, raging fever, and that was a Saturday night. So that was
Jason: back on the same cancer floor,
Mo: no back in the same hospital, but the emergency room
Jason: so then what happened?
Mo: And that was almost all night in the emergency room. had to go back into the hospital because I had an infection.
Jason: Okay. So you had an infection, they put you back up on the cancer floor What happened then,
Mo: there was probably a dual infection. I think that was a bladder infection and the incision had become infected. Okay. So what they did is they opened the incision again. and packed it. And within a few days, then some antibiotics, they send me home and back to the apartment.
Jason: And so they reopened the incision, this seven inch call it
and then they pack that with.
Mo: And then they tape you up and then they sent me back,
Jason: sent you back home or back to your apartment,
Mo: my apartment a couple of days. And I remember that.
Jason: And you're heading back to this temporary apartment with an open wound
Mo: yeah. But they said, don't worry. You will get a nurse to come in. And every day. Repack it repack it repack it. So, and it will be a slow healing, obviously, you know, they couldn't, they didn't stitch it back. Left it open. So, stayed there til April 26th, flew back to Florida with an open incision.
New new situation in Florida. Okay. So you know, somebody which is easy to do, you know, get somebody to come in and change that nurses, nurse, the nurses every day, every single day. And, trip back to Florida was delightful. Delightful.
Jason: So help me understand at this point now you've had the surgery, you've had a hiccup in terms of the infection, right? But at this point, it is about, it is
Mo: absolutely cancer is
Jason: cancer it's pancreatic cancer
Mo: and they're recommending chemo, followup,
Jason: chemo. Okay. So, so you've qualified for the Whipple, rthey did the surgery. They've confirmed that it's absolutely pancreatic cancer, garden, variety pancreatic cancer.
Mo: No, no. The most aggressive on the planet, he said you should, you should be so lucky to have had Steve Job's version. Okay. His was not as aggressive as yours. You have the most aggressive form of pancreatic cancer.
Jason: You have that.
Mo: And I asked why must I have chemo? Because he, said, you're having chemo because it works. I remember him saying that dr. Jarnagin,
Jason: Jarnagin. He's a miracle worker. So whatever you can tell you to hike the hike, the Himalayas.
Mo: And I said, well, where's yeah, exactly. And I said, where should I get this? He said, it doesn't matter where you get your chemo.
You can get the same chemo in Rwanda, as you can get in Boynton beach, or you can get here at Sloan Kettering, no need to stay.
Jason: And for you, you very much value getting back.
Mo: to my people to my friends, to my everything,
Jason: because you're a bookkeeper. In terms of, you know, managing personal assistant for a number of families in South Florida. So you wanted to get back to that. And, so, so you fly back to Florida, you're set up back now in your home in Boynton beach. and you're excited about getting back to your clients and doing their personal little assistant, working in bookkeeping and whatnot.
And you then have to assume to find someone to administer your chemo, right. So take me through that.
Mo: dr. Jarnagin recommended two or three. I chose, Florida cancer. because of the location, partially, it was a delightful location. Very easy to get to. I didn't have to go South into Boca Raton.
I went a little bit North into Wellington, Florida cancer had five offices where I could pick from in the Wellington office seemed excellent. and, and because dr. Harris was recommended by dr. Jarnagin, I felt very safe. So I thought this, this is not going to be a problem.
Jason: And so how soon did you, cause isn't there a period where you have to get strong enough to start the chemo? They can't do chemo immediately after surgery cause you're in a tremendously weakened state.
Mo: Right? Well, I, I came home the 26th of April, my first chemo. I went to see dr. Harris very quickly. Pardon me if I get confused. The pastor of my parish church is dr. Father Harris, dr. Harris. So I always get them confused, but anyway, So, I met with dr. Harris and he wanted to start, the chemo the next week. And I remember thinking, Oh, I really don't feel that good. Can't we go a little longer, but I didn't want to say that because. It works. so I told him, I said, you know, I'm not really feeling too great. And I still have this open incision. It hasn't healed yet.
Isn't healing and he said, I'll give you one more week, one more week. So, and he said, then you come in and you know, it's interesting that the way nd it's good that they do this, they minimize the chemo, they described it as. Very tolerable. Okay. well, like anything they called the Whipple a procedure.
I mean, that's the same thing as taking a toenail out. Anyway, so very tolerable. You'll probably tolerate it very well. Nobody ever says it's cumulative. That's okay.
Jason: Describe in your words, what cumulative means to you
Mo: meaning getting worse every single time. So you kind of feel great after the first chemo.Five months from now.
Jason: very different situation
Mo: and you know what? It's good. I didn't Google. it is so good.
Jason: Yeah. It's better for you tackle those challenges as they come
Mo: one day at a time.
Jason: And so you start chemo sooner and you'd like it. And. Now, there's this thing called a port, you know, that because many people who are going to be having chemo don't know what a port is.
Mo: They put this little gadget right under the skin, up here in your clavicle. Right. They put that in and it a little tube hangs from it and it makes. Everything so much easier. They do take blood from there. You never have to get punctured in your arms. You never have to look for a vein. It's so simple
Jason: It's basically a way to administer chemo, et cetera, just like took blood tests without having to,
Mo: I mean, a straw into your blood. It's just amazing. Everything goes in and out and it happens quick and fast with it.
Jason: Were you okay with getting that?
Mo: It wasn't a horrible procedure. You know, It's a good Samaritan hospital and the doctor put it in and you're a little bit sore for a day. Big deal. There it is. And you know, you're aware of it. You're you're, you know, it's there, but it's, it doesn't disrupt anything.
Jason: So you have this port that allows for easy the chemicals, so you have a port installed, right? You go for your first chemo.
Mo: We have to back up because I'm assigned a woman, a nurse, actually two nurses, one nurse, came to assist me with showering. Because for some reason I was having trouble with, with, it seems like I would pass out for some reason.
I'm not sure why, whether they thought it was the adrenal gland, it didn't matter. Right. I would sometimes just nothing horrible, but anyway, then the, the nurse had to come every single day. To pack. the Incision.
Jason: So these are two different things. One is to make sure that you have kind of a safe shower and not fall over bang your head and things like that. And the other is the packing of your wound, which is an open incision.
Mo: Now her name was Evelyn and we have remained friends. To this day, when she came, she said the first she pulled into the driveway and she opened the folder and she thought to herself, Oh my gosh, this woman has pancreatic cancer. And she said she was sad.
Jason: and she was sad because the survival rates are right.
Mo: She's a nurse. She was also not just a nurse, but Evelyn was also a family therapist. How you talk about a miracle? This woman is going to see me every single day. And that's probably. So I have to say one of the most positive things about this was the fact that I got an infection, the fact that they had to open the incision, the fact that it had to be packed every day, because Evelyn came into my life.
Jason: That's great. That's great.
Mo: That was so positive. We never mentioned the word cancer. Never mentioned it. We talked about food. We talked about children and we talked about man, we talked about you name it. We did it but never mentioned cancer.
Jason: Now, this is during a period where you had just come back from New York.
When you left for New York and all your friends down in South Florida saw you as the Mo, they always knew which was healthy and happy and joyous, and lots of energy you were coming back from New York, probably hunched over and a shell of youreself, agressive weight loss program, et cetera. And so. How did people treat you on the heels of the surgery and you getting ready for chemo? That must've been a very different type of.
Mo: Yeah, it was noticeable. That was, that was another message to me. I don't know. It just made me so aware that this was more serious that I was been, I was assigning it because they were bringing over poached salmon. They were bringing over flowers, my neighbors, they could not have been kinder.
Jason: Okay. How did that make you feel?
Mo: Yeah, It did make it didn't make me feel good. I knew that people were saying behind my back that it's very likely she won't make it. So we're so lucky to help her out now when we can and people would come in teams, you know?
Jason: and how do you deal with that when you sense these people are pitying me, they clearly think I'm not going to make it. I want to make it. How do you deal with that?
Mo: Yeah, I did. I know. I think I, again, minimized when they would say, how are you feeling? Oh, I'm feeling fine. Oh my gosh, I can't get off this chair.
I'm sitting here talking to you because remember I'm still packed. so I, I never really was honest when people would ask, how do you feel? I always said I feel fine. I feel good. I remember being invited to, Events. And I could not eat a thing, a thing that became an issue for awhile, that I was not able to eat because it created so much nausea.
And, and, and I remember at one point, your brother, Jeff said, mom, you have to have to eat. And he means, well, he meant well, and I remember looking at him and saying, I can't, and if you need to arrange for a feeding tube, because I am not able to eat this is it. And it was interesting my whole life, I would go to.
Weight meetings and, and ways to lose weight. My whole adult life, maybe not even in high school that started. And I would be so aware of getting on the scale and weighing the least possible. If I could have taken the fillings out of my teeth for a weigh in, at weight Watchers, I would have trust me, trust me.
I mean, I would take my earrings out. I would take everything. There was nothing. Right. when I would go in to, Florida cancer. I remember putting things in my pocket. So it wouldn't look like I was losing more weight and I thought, am I really doing this? The one interesting thing to note about going to an oncologist office when you can on the scale and you've gained weight, they all clap.
When you're at weight watchers and you've gained weight. You can do it next week's another week. So I was completely at the opposite end now.
Jason: I'm fascinated by this sort of people, pitying you and
Mo: well being extraordinarily kind,
Jason: which is wonderful. That part's wonderful, but I assume that it must, it must be hard to be going through something of great challenge physically when people are being very kind to you, but when there's an element of pity, right.
My guess is that's probably not what you're hoping to receive from other people. Yeah.
Mo: And, and I don't think they, you didn't mean to show it overtly. Right. But their kindness was overwhelming. Right. I mean, briskets and I'm always speaking positive. Right. so for several times people would say you've lost so much weight, are you sure you okay.
And, you know, and I always had a quick answer and I said, you know, this is the weight loss program I've been looking for all my life. It's called a Whipple, you know, just make light of it. And, and, and being, I remember of my age, there's many, many people that we're going through chemo,
I was to a luncheon. Two years into this journey with there were nine of us women. And I remember there was only one woman at that table, but had not had cancer of some sort in our life. Yeah. There were random woman living in an area in a country club community that have nothing in common, we're from all over the country. And eight of the nine of us had cancer at some time. So that's the scope of cancer in our life.
Jason: So what advice would you have before we wrap up this section of our conversation in this episode? What advice would you have to friends and family of someone that is going through pancreatic cancer?
And in that moment, you've come back from surgery. You've lost a dramatic amount of weight. You have an open wound. You're not feeling good. You're about to start chemo. What advice would you have? Would you give to family and friends as to how best to act in that moment? with someone that has that diagnosis,
Mo: I would say, believe that that chemo. It's not the poison that people call it. That is the medicine that will bring you to good health again, believe in it.
Jason: So, but they believe in the chemo,
Mo: Believe in the chemo.
Jason: Is there something about, you know, them being sort of more honest or them being more direct. Cause I knew that the natural instinct, I think for most people is to be incredibly kind and positive and never speak the reality of what's to come, which is.
Chemo is cumulative and it's hard and all those things. And any thoughts on that? Or is it no, no, no kindness. And, and even some pity, if that helps someone deal with it, themselves is okay.
Mo: People that have been through any type of cancer. If you can share that with them. People people like me saying, Oh, I, I remember feeling like you're feeling now.
It helps. It helps not oh mine was worse than yours, that I can better you in this cancer. But to just say, listen, I remember chemo and I, there were, there was some tough times that I, I feel, I feel what you're going through. What can I do if anything.
Jason: So, is it fair to say that? And I think this is in, in matters of mental fitness and mental health is the importance of validation, which is to, validate, you know, with the other person, what they're feeling.
Because my hunch is that it was very hard for people to look at you in that moment and say, I can see your suffering. I can see this as hard for you. And I just want you to know that I see that, I know that in other areas of medicine, specifically, mental health validation is so important.
And I'm just curious. Do you think that's important and helpful?
Mo: Oh, extraordinary. Extraordinarily the other, and these are simple things, Jason, and that's a whole other issue. It probably, you're going to say this is so stupid, but when you bring something to somebody. Don't bring it in a dish that has to be washed and returned.
That's overwhelming. Overwhelming for somebody who's not feeling well, bring it in disposable. The energy is, and it's overwhelming to have three dishes to have to go to three different people. I mean, to think that that is overwhelming, but it's just that additional and those little things, and I know this is going to sound horrible, but don't call.
Send a letter. That doesn't need a response or send an email that doesn't, that says at the bottom. I'm praying for you. I'm thinking about you do not respond. I will assume by not hearing from you, you are doing as well as you can.
Jason: So that's fascinating. So basically be thoughtful to the point where you're not adding any work to the, to the patient.
Even a text that asks the question is overwhelming. Just say, you're in my prayers. Do not respond, please. It's that simple because there, thank God. There were so many.
Jason: I think that's great. I that's wonderful insight that I think I, it,
Mo: I had a cousin that sent me a card every single day. Kathy O'Brien did not require any response.
Just a card came every single day. Thinking of you, praying for you.
Jason: And that sounds like that makes a great,
Mo: Oh, it makes a big difference. And I don't think to this day I've ever thanked her. I think I need it.
Jason: Consider it thanked.
Mo: Yes. And, and, you know, that was another thing you think I need to thank these people.
I need to pay these people back. How will I ever be able to do this? Right. Their kindness is so overwhelming
Jason: but if you're a family member or a friend, just putting it through that lens, which is. How can I both validate and, and not put any onus on the person or anything at all? That's very helpful. Yeah.
Mo: It's just a simple thing, but you know, you got to respect and love the people that didn't call you.
You shouldn't have to lift that phone. Well, and I remember days when, while we'll save this for the next segment, that as you go through the chemo, how, you know, what days in the week you're going to feel good and what you're nice. You're not going to feel good. And, you know,
Jason: Well, that's, that's common. So it's that it's wrap up this section, this episode, and the next time we'll get into chemo and all that comes with chemo.
So thank you very much.
Thank you for listening to this second episode
Jason: of the Mo Chronicles navigating pancreatic cancer in the next third episode of this four episode series, we'll cover Mo's experience with chemotherapy and the many surprising things. It entailed.