A Quiet Storm Was Brewing
My dad was at the diagnostic center, filling out a form to have his routine blood tests done, when he impulsively ticked the box for the CA19-9 tumor marker test on the center’s checklist. It was July 17th 2021, and my dad hadn’t been feeling well for about 8 weeks prior. He had been waking up feeling so weak he couldn’t move around in the morning, his blood sugar had been going up, and he had lost his appetite as well as a lot of weight. He looked up his symptoms online and ‘pancreatic cancer’ came up. He just had an abdominal CT scan done 2 months before, and the result said ‘pancreas is unremarkable’. Cancer seemed unlikely. But that day at the diagnostic center, a passing feeling made him tick that box. Early the following day, a call came from the center. His CA19-9 test result was a whopping 202.20 U/ml, significantly far from the normal range of 0.00 to 27.00 U/ml. My dad was told to consult with his doctor right away.
The four weeks that followed was a blur of consultations, diagnostics, second and third opinions, and calls from family and friends. Another CT scan showed that my dad’s once unremarkable pancreas now had a 1.0 cm x 1.3 cm mass sitting on its head. The result of the endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) which followed revealed that the mass was in fact 3.5 cm x 2.0 cm, almost 3 times bigger than previously thought. Five days after the EUS, he and my sister sat at his gastroenterologist’s clinic to hear about the biopsy result. The doctor looked at them and what was said was everything our family feared: the mass on my dad’s pancreas is malignant and has started to advance.
The Diagnosis and a Silver Lining
My dad was officially diagnosed with Stage 3 locally advanced Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma on August 26, 2021. His team of doctors had the results of the EUS and biopsy reviewed and it showed that the locally invasive mass measured 4.6 cm x 3.5 cm and had reached the portal vein. The head of the team, a surgical oncologist, advised against surgery, explaining that if the mass is removed at that point, it will take a patient with comorbidities (coronary artery disease, hypertension, diverticulitis, and diabetes) more than 3 weeks to recover. Other undetectable cancer cells could have spread by then. It would be better if my dad undergoes chemotherapy to shrink the mass first. So, a plan was formed. He will first have 3 cycles of chemo treatment using Abraxane and Gemcitabine, get another CT scan to see if the mass shrank, and have the surgery (a Whipple procedure) before he has the last 3 or more cycles of chemotherapy.
Having our dad receive an official diagnosis of Stage 3 pancreatic cancer had left our family devastated. Anyone who reads up on it will know that the prognosis for this type of cancer is not good. But we are not without hope. My dad’s oncology team expressed a lot of optimism. “Your dad’s still very strong for his age. I didn’t think he has cancer when I saw him in the hallway the other day”, his gastroenterologist said. “He is the ideal candidate for chemo treatment”, added his medical oncologist. But his doctors urged that we decide and act quickly to take advantage of whatever good condition that my dad still enjoyed.
The Fight Begins
With determination and as much courage as we could muster, our family went to work right away. First, my dad had to get rid of the jaundice and got his nutrients back up before he could start his chemo treatments. After having a metal stent placed to help bypass the block in his portal vein and allow the trapped bile to drain, my dad was soon feeling and eating better. Things seemed like they were off to a good start until my dad started to have abdominal pains. On the night of September 22nd, the pain intensified and there was blood in his stools. He was brought to the emergency room right away.
Hurdles and Setbacks
What followed was an 8-day stay at the hospital. My dad had a bad case of diverticular bleeding and had to be admitted for blood transfusions, intravenous medication, and monitoring. Unfortunately, this drained the rest of what was left on his health insurance card. We needed that money. We’ve been told that the main chemotherapy drug (Abraxane) my dad needs is not available in the country and would have to be imported from Canada. The drug and import fees will cost us USD 5,300 every cycle. This doesn’t include the Gemcitabine drug. With at least 6 cycles of chemotherapy, hospital and other charges, the surgery, and other treatment procedures, we will need at least USD 100,000 to cover the expenses for my dad’s treatment.
Ours is a single income Filipino household. My family lives in Metro Manila, while I work in Japan as an assistant language teacher. My sister has taken on caring for our dad full time, so what I get from my work is our only steady source of income. Apart from our dad’s illness, our biggest hurdle in all this is the financial burdens of cancer care and treatment. It became clear to all of us very early on that, after the first 2 cycles, we will no longer be able to afford the treatment if we don’t find support.
My sister and I set out to find medical and financial support for our dad. Surely there is funding to assist elderly cancer patients? It didn’t take long to find out that whatever assistance there was has had their budgets reallocated to help patients with serious cases of covid. While the national health insurance does provide some support, it’s far from enough to make a real impact.
We’re Fighting On
Since returning from the hospital, my dad has been focusing on getting his health back up and preparing for his first chemo treatment. Our family has somehow managed to pool some of the funds needed to cover the drugs for the first cycle.
As a 69-year-old man who is often mistaken to be at least 5 years younger because of his vitality, my dad’s cancer diagnosis has come as a devastating shock to our family and close friends. My dad is a hard working and supportive father. His quiet and steadfast character has been a steady source of strength for us. During one of the darkest times in my life, when I was suffering from depression, it was my dad’s presence that steadied me and helped me to find the strength to pull myself out of that swamp. We want and need him in our lives, for as long as God permits. Our family and his doctors believe that it is not too late for him. So we are fighting on. We are going to focus on his treatment even as our family focuses on making the most of our time with him.
We Need Your Help
My dad was never the type to be sentimental or to show a lot of emotions, but there had been a lot of quiet tears that wouldn’t be held back since last August. On one such instance, he told my sister what was really bothering him – that the situation has forced his family to share the burden of his illness and treatments. We love our dad and sharing this burden with him is something that we do willingly and wholeheartedly. There’s nothing in the world we’d rather be doing right now than supporting and caring for him. He knows this but he has been used to being the one who cares and provides for us. That had always been the case since he became our dad. Even now, in his condition, he is more worried about the family who’s sharing his burden. This is the kind of father we hope you would help us save.
We hope to raise funds to help with the financial burden of a cancer treatment as well as the means for my dad to live as normal as possible. Anything you can donate will go a long way and will be much appreciated. During this difficult time, what’s most important is to do everything we can to help and surround our dad with love and support so that he can find in all of us the strength he needs to fight for his life.
If you’d like to assist with the financial burden of my dad’s cancer treatment, any donation through 1) this GoFundMe account, 2) deposits to the bank account detailed below, or 3) other means would be greatly appreciated. You can get in touch with me (Kristine) via this email address: [email protected]. All funds raised will go directly to my dad’s medical costs. You’re welcome to view the details of his treatment through the attached pictures and documents. We want to honor your help and generosity by sharing what information we can and by providing regular updates about my dad’s treatment and progress.
|Local Bank Details
Name: Felix G. Feliciano Jr. (the patient) / Karen M. Feliciano (daughter)
Account Number: 012710033824
Branch: Banco de Oro – SM City North EDSA D Branch
The past few months have been very difficult, but we’ve found so much strength in the love, support, and prayers that everyone has shown. My dad and our family are truly grateful for these, as well as for those that we’ll undoubtedly receive in the months to come.