Written by Jewell Gatewood – Pancreatic Cancer Patient Survivor


There are many happy survivors of cancer because of West Cancer Center, and we each have our own journey.


I was nearing my 61st birthday when suddenly I could not eat normally. I knew something was wrong, but at 61 years old, I sincerely thought it was IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I immediately went to a gastrointestinal doctor who ran various tests. Afterwards, the doctor met with me and to say their tests indicated that I had pancreatic cancer. With those who have been diagnosed with any type of cancer, it was shocking to say the least. I thought I was in perfect health, especially since I had participated and completed three 5k’s just months before my diagnosis. How could this be?


My gastro doctor immediately contacted Dr. Brad Somer at West Cancer Center. My doctor told Dr. Somer he had a patient with pancreatic cancer and asked Dr. Somer to see me immediately. I was indeed seen immediately, and after other tests and lab work – it was confirmed that I had Stage 1 or 2 pancreatic cancer on the head of my pancreas.


This was, I thought, a death sentence.


I have known other friends and acquaintances that had breast, prostate, and other cancers. Most with successful outcomes, but not those with pancreatic cancer – so I began to think I should prepare for death. As a Christian, I was ready.


But what changed my perspective was the care I received from West.


Dr. Somer explained that I was a great candidate to beat this disease since I was in good health. He shared information with me that I had never heard of and answered so many of my questions. Where is the pancreas? What does chemo involve, and what is this Whipple procedure you speak of? What does that involve?


With all these questions, Dr. Somer, Heather Greene, P.A. and West’s care team went into action –  explaining to me that pancreatic cancer was not a death sentence. Whew, what hope they gave me! Every one of West’s team members from the labs, the 4 to 5-hour chemo team for 4 months – they all got me through it. When my potassium level was dangerously low, one could not imagine how sick I was. But West’s team was there for me, giving me the necessary treatment needed, then immediately checked me into the hospital.


And did I mention that when losing my hair, I was given 2 free wigs, turbans, and a tote bag that contained many other resources for me? Gosh, they think of everything!


West Cancer Center saved my life then, and I am now here because of them. After 5 months of 4-5 hours of weekly chemo to shrink my tumor, I was then ready for the Whipple procedure. A 7-hour successful surgery.


After recovering from the surgery, I was then told by Dr. Somer that I would need oral and 1-hour of chemo infusions for 4 months. I can’t say that I was happy about having more chemo, but I knew that Dr. Somer and West had gotten me thus far, and I needed their recommendations!


I survived one of the hardest cancers to have and cure – pancreatic cancer. West Cancer Center so intelligently and with great care, directed me each step of my journey. I trusted their judgment, I followed every recommendation, and I am so blessed to have had such great care.


I’ll close with this recommendation to anyone who is beginning a cancer journey:

Trust your doctors, physician assistants, nurses, and your care team. You are not the first they have treated. I found that West Cancer Center is the best of the best. I am so grateful and blessed that I was directed to West and truly owe them my life.