Richard Blish was healthy and athletic in 2009, when his strength vanished, his appetite disappeared, and he developed jaundice. After receiving a diagnosis of …
My name is Rich Blish.
I live here in Saratoga, California and I’m
an 11-year pancreatic cancer survivor.
I learned that I had pancreatic cancer by
virtue over the period of three weeks losing
20 pounds, losing appetite.
I couldn’t exercise anymore, and then I
got jaundiced.
That was the absolute tip-off.
My initial reaction to being diagnosed with
pancreatic cancer was major depression.
But given that I’m an optimistic person
that lasted all of one day.
(laughter)
My daughter is an immunologist and medical
doctor, so she figured out a clinical trial
I could enroll in which was marvelously successful.
All 35 of us did survive even though we were
marginally resectable.
About only 4 percent of the people that are
diagnosed with pancreatic cancer do enroll
in clinical trials and they are really effective.
A lot of people are confused with regard to
what a clinical trial is.
They are afraid of getting a placebo instead
of a medicine and that’s not a valid fear.
The typical design of the experiments is standard treatment or standard treatment plus some experimental arm.
I had good support from my family.
My son, he lives on the East Coast, and we
talk about every other day roughly.
My daughter, she’s got an immunology lab
at Stanford.
My late wife was very helpful.
After my wife died, then I was really depressed
and fortunately I found a woman that was a
psychological twin to me.
The most rewarding part of the experience
is to help others.
I’ve spent the last seven years or so mentoring
newly diagnosed people.
Given that I’m trained as a scientist, I
can actually read the medical literature and
provide some input.
The first thing that I would tell newly diagnosed
people is it’s not a death sentence.
It is possible to get to the other side.
For example, when I was diagnosed there was
about a 6 percent chance of surviving five
years.
It’s now almost double that.
I do not have the feeling of impending doom
that my time is numbered.
I had one year of tough medication and nine
or 10 years of wonderful life since then.
A friend of mine had a friend who was struggling
with pancreatic cancer who had a wonderful
way of allaying the fear.
“You are a statistic of one.
You can beat the odds.”

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