Ask Dr. Giles: I just want to connect with someone like me who survived this

Randi asks:

First let me say how sorry I am about the loss of your friend.

I am a 54 year old woman who was diagnosed with CC after having an ERCP in Nov 2009.  I had a Whipple procedure December 15th, 09 (just 4 weeks ago) and the good news was that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, was not in my liver, and only ‘poked’ a little into my pancreas.  It was staged as 1B.

I am now facing the decision about chemo. Should I have it, should I have chemo along with radiation, or should I not have anything at all.

I am also a breast cancer (15 yr)  and thyroid cancer (10 yr) survivor and when going through those cancers I had a really rosy outlook and was positive that I would survive.

Unfortunately, with this cancer I am less optimistic and find that I am crying all the time and often fall into a funk where I can’t concentrate on anything.

I just want to connect with someone like me who survived this, not just people who are memorializing those that have died.

I am not sure why I am even writing to you other than I need to just unload a bit.


Thank you for your kind words about the loss of my friend. He’s been on my mind more often lately, and I am happy for the memories.

It sounds like you are struggling with the gravity of this form of cancer. Indeed, cholangiocarcinoma seems to be a particularly aggressive and unrelenting foe. Your desire to connect with those who have beaten back this fierce challenger is understandable.

I hope, however, you can take courage from your previous campaigns and the success you’ve had with other forms of cancer. I believe your previous experiences give you an advantage in the current fight and it just may be that others on this board will seek you out because of it. Think of it: you’ve faced down two different cancers in the span of 5 years and then lived a seemingly cancer-free life for a decade afterward! That’s a remarkable accomplishment and a credit to your strength and fortitude.

Those who are members of the cholangiocarcinoma “club” are brothers and sisters in arms–waging a very serious fight against an imposing adversary. As you encounter them at this site and elsewhere, you’ll find that they have fears and concerns just like you. They have their good days and their bad days just like you. You’ll also find that they have courage–the kind of courage that stems from an awareness of their own mortality and the mortality of those around them. That courage propels them forward not only through treatment, doctor’s appointments, and so forth but forward through the events of daily living with family, friends, and other loved ones.

Welcome to the “club,” Randi. I think you’ll find successful survivors here. Here’s hoping that you eventually become one of those successful survivors you currently seek.