Shirley Shackelford - Patient Story

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By 2009, I had experienced three bouts of pancreatitis that started with excruciating pain. Each bout sent to me to a hospital for several days where I received IV nourishment. For five years, I worried that I would once again have to deal with another round of pain and treatment.

It was that year that I decided to travel to a teaching hospital in Philadelphia for diagnostic testing. An endoscopy revealed that I had stage 1 pancreatic cancer, and I was informed that I needed surgery right away. I went back to the hospital the day after I got the diagnosis, but I wasn’t satisfied with my experience. The staff was not compassionate, and I didn’t like the vibe I was getting. Instead of proceeding with the surgery, I decided I should get a second opinion.

My primary care physician recommended a top doctor at Fox Chase who performed a surgery that had very good success rates, so I made an appointment with John P. Hoffman, MD, FACS, Chief of Pancreaticobiliary Service. Dr. Hoffman was kind, reassuring, and said he could help me. He said he would perform a 'Whipple’ procedure, which is a minimally invasive procedure that removes the head, or wide part, of the pancreas next to the duodenum in the small intestine. He was optimistic that this procedure could contain the cancer.

I underwent the whipple procedure, and came out of both the surgery and the recovery to follow successfully.

I can now enjoy a healthy life with my family and my job. My husband and I own a local real estate business, and we have two grown daughters, one step-son, and four granddaughters. Six years after my diagnosis and surgery, I continue to work and to enjoy traveling abroad and cooking. I see Dr. Hoffman twice a year, and my scans are clean.

Thinking back about how I handled the diagnosis, I realize that I tried to remain positive and to be an advocate for my own health care. I think it is very important to get a second opinion and the best place for that is Fox Chase. It can save your life.

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