November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. In preparation for that, a local family has been raising money for the Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Network (PanCAN). Mark and Martha Hurst and their family and friends have been organizing and hosting various fundraisers in the area including a golf tournament and charity game with the Ray-Pec soccer team. The golf tournament was held back in September at Adams Pointe Golf Course and raised over $6,000. Last month in cooperation with the Ray-Pec Soccer team, through raffles and donations, $1,000 was raised for PanCAN.
Since his story ran in the Raymore Journal from September 11-25 (see below for complete articles), the family says they have received much support and encouragement from the community. It also facilitated at least one current cancer patient reaching out to Mark for mentoring during this difficult time.
On October 27, the Raymore City Council presented a proclamation to Animal Control Officer Sharon McKinny and her brother Robert in honor of their mother who passed away from this terrible disease in June of this year. “From the bottom of our hearts we would like to thank everyone who is responsible for this proclamation,” said Mr. McKinny.
Martha Hurst also challenged the Council to wear purple on November 14 in participation of Purple for a Purpose. “Let’s support the citizens of Raymore who are actually now fighting Pancreatic Cancer.”
For information on how to get involved with PanCAN go to http://www.pancan.org.
September 11, 2014
This year over 46,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States. Of that number only about 6,000 will survive. The reason the death rate is so high with this type of cancer is because it is so hard to detect it before it spreads. A local family that was hit by this deadly disease opened up about their journey through their fight with pancreatic cancer in hopes of spreading awareness and raise funding for research for a cure.
In July of 2012 Martha Hurst noticed something different about her husband. His skin on his forehead appeared blotchy. He had low energy. He had lower back pain that he attributed to a bike ride. He had a loss of appetite.
Mark Hurst went to the doctor when his back did not heal and the doctor made a note in his chart that he thought his gallbladder might be inflamed but that his back may simply be a pulled muscle. The doctor told Mark that if his back did not improve in a couple of days to come back for some more tests. After two weeks, one of Mark’s co-workers asked Mark if he felt alright and pointed out that his eyes did not look right. They had a yellow hue to them. He was jaundice.“I was lucky I got that. It is one of the signs of pancreatic cancer. Had I not gotten it, I could have gone a long time. I’ve heard of people who have dealt with what they thought was stomach issues for over a year before they catch it and by that time, there in stage 4 and there is really no help.”
“I had to go back to the doctor. They had to do all kinds of tests on me. They found that I had a blocked bile duct. They did a CAT scan and found a tumor wrapped around it,” recalled Mark. He had lost 15 pounds in two weeks. He was in stage 2 pancreatic cancer.
“They diagnosed me and within two days I was getting a stint put in to relieve some of the issues [with the blocked bile duct] and that the cancer was also close to a major blood vessel.”
Within less than two weeks he had met with a team of doctors, determined a course of action, had a port put in, and began chemotherapy.
Continue following Mark’s story in the next edition of The Raymore Journal.
Mark Hurst endured six rounds of four different types of chemotherapy called the “Chemo Cocktail.” He also took 28 rounds of radiation with the day before Thanksgiving being his last treatment. “Then they gave me a month off,” said Mark with grin. The tumor had shrunk, so the aggressive treatment was looking promising. In December he went in for surgery. The doctors told him and his family that there was a very small window of opportunity for surgery to be successful and they needed to act quickly.
The pancreas is shaped like a flattened fish. Mark’s tumor was wrapped around the superior mesenteric artery that passes behind the “neck” of the pancreas. If the tumor spread and wrapped fully around the artery there would be nothing they could do. The life expectancy of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is less than 5 years.
Mark underwent a surgery known as the Whipple Procedure. Dr. Jafri of the Menorah Medical Center was the surgeon in charge of Mark’s case. The Whipple procedure can only be done on a patient whose tumor has not spread beyond the pancreas and does not involve major blood vessels. The head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, the duodenum, a small portion of the stomach, and the lymph nodes near the head of the pancreas are removed. The remaining section of the pancreas and digestive organs are reconnected allowing pancreatic enzymes, bile, and stomach contents to flow into the small intestine.
“That day when they took me back, I’d turned it all over to God at that point. If I was going to go, I was going to go. I was really at peace. As a matter of fact I was singing ‘I Surrender’ by Hillsong in my mind as I was being wheeled into the operating room.” After the surgery, Mark had to have a feeding tube and go through 12 more rounds of chemo. The surgery was a success. The cancer was confined to the area they removed and as of today he is cancer free. “I’ll probably never accept that fact. I live on a day to day basis.”
Look for the conclusion of the story in next week’s Raymore Journal.
September 25, 2014
After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and extensive surgery, Mark is currently cancer free. His battle forever changed his life and that of his family. It refocused his priorities. “Now I live a day to day kind of thing. It was a long hard road. The perspective for going out and making lots of money isn’t there. I want to work and keep my hands busy, but to go out to get better off, not so much. The little things just don’t matter as much anymore. I try not to be so head strong. It’s the family things. It’s seeing my grand-kids, my kids, and doing things with her [Martha] now.”
“When this happens, your total perspective of life changes entirely, because it’s not about ‘I got to beat the next person’ or ‘I want this, this, and this.’ It was hard for everybody, the entire family. It was a struggle at first because he [Mark] was angry,” added his wife Martha.
Having little information about this type of cancer when his journey began, his wife, Martha, collected a massive three-ringed binder of information about his doctors, his treatments, and his prognosis. After his health improved he and his family decided they needed to do something to promote awareness of this deadly disease. Mark is doing his part by helping others who are just beginning their treatments. “I have chances now to talk to people, to witness to people. He has written articles for “Purple Light,” a publication from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN). The Network also has a group called Pals comprised of people who have been diagnosed with the disease who can talk to each other about what they are going through. “I was a speaker to a group of people, most of whom lost loved ones [to pancreatic cancer]. I’d be more than willing to talk to anybody about what they are going through.” To that end, Mark wants his email to be accessible to anyone who wants to talk about pancreatic cancer, firstname.lastname@example.org.
His wife has become active in raising funds for PanCAN. “I think our passion right now is to bring awareness out because within the last two years we know five families in Raymore that has been affected by this,” said Martha. “Three of those families have already lost their loved ones.”
The Hurst family know that Mark is not out of the woods yet. With only 6% of those diagnosed surviving more than five years, they know each day is precious. Their mission now is to raise awareness and funds. Only 2% of the research for a cure is funded by the government, the rest is from donations. All of the money raised by Dad’s Drivers Golf Tournament will go to PanCAN for research and awareness.