Cindy Luse’s life changed forever 16-months ago when she and her husband were called into her doctor’s office to hear the results of a recent medical test. The word that spilled out of her doctor’s mouth that day was the one word that everyone fears- cancer. After further testing, she was told she had stage-4 pancreatic cancer. But with the strength of her family and the support of the community, Cindy Luse won against the odds.
“I knew it was something serious when the doctor called me and asked me to come to the office,” said Cindy Luse. “Then, when I heard that she called my husband and asked him to come with me, I knew it wasn’t going to be good.”
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer related death in the United States. It has the highest fatality rate of all major cancers with 94% of pancreatic cancer patients dying within five years of diagnosis. The high fatality rate is due to the fact that there are no detection tools to diagnose the disease in its early stages and surgical removal of the tumor is nearly impossible.
Cindy Luse has been an employee in the technology department for over twenty years with the Bellbrook City Schools. “I had a backache and was really tired. But my father-in-law had been in the hospital and we were all tired. But, when I started having digestive problems in June, I went to the doctor. My doctor thought I was having gallbladder problems. I had an ultrasound and a scan of the area, but what they found was a tumor the size of a baseball,” Luse said. “My cancer was not only in my pancreas, but also in my lymph nodes and liver. After the biopsy, I learned I wasn’t a surgical candidate, so I started chemo right away.”
Cindy, her husband, Charlie and their two daughters, Folkerth and Nikki Luse provided support for her during her first chemotherapy treatment and everyone after. “She was never alone. Actually, after the first treatment, we made it a girl’s day out. My sister and I would take off work for every scheduled chemo days and the three of us would go to chemo,” said Cindy’s daughter, Megan Folkerth.
“After the idea of the cancer settled in, I knew I wasn’t going to just sit back and let this take me. I’m going to fight. When I went for my first chemo, I told everyone that we are going to get through this together,” Cindy said. “Our motto became, ‘shrink baby shrink’ and it has.”
Even with a heart-wrenching diagnosis, Cindy’s family gathered around her with encouragement, strength and more love than ever. “We were always a very close family, but now, I can honestly say that not a day goes by that I don’t speak to her,” said Folkerth. During doctor’s appointments, the whole family attended.
During her mother’s treatment, Megan became a representative of the Cincinnati affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. The goal of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is to double the survival rate of this form of cancer by 2020. The United Cancer Society estimates that in 2014, there will be about 46,420 new cases of pancreatic cancer and about 39,590 deaths from pancreatic cancer related problems. “Prior to her being diagnosed, our family wasn’t familiar with pancreatic cancer,” Folkerth said. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network predicts that this type of cancer could be the second leading cause of cancer related deaths by 2020.
“I couldn’t have gone through this without my family, our friends and the school district,” Cindy said. “They would provide meals, yard work and just anything we needed. The community has been fantastic.”
Even though pancreatic cancer is a non-curable form of cancer, Cindy’s tumor markers have dropped from 26,000 to 5 (with the normal being 0-37). Even though she is not considered to be in remission, she feels great and her tumor markers are really good and her family is very happy with her success.
“Now, the tumors are inches, which is great. But, the support and prayers I’ve received from the community is just amazing,” Cindy said. “I’m very lucky.”
Cindy and her girls are now looking forward to going on a real “girls’ day out” to a spa for pampering instead of a hospital.
To learn more about pancreatic cancer, research and fund raising events, or make donations, visit Pancreatic Action Network at http://www.pancan.org/. Follow Cindy’s journey and other cancer survivors by visiting caringbridge.org.