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Life and Arts

On the Town: Columnist begins arduous journey back to health

The “C” word. It’s the one word you hope will never find its way into the sentence “You have cancer.”

But two weeks ago that’s exactly what my doctor told me. More specifically, I have pancreatic cancer.

A CT scan and endoscopic ultrasound revealed that a cyst mass was growing in the tail end of the pancreas. The spleen was also compromised, so surgery was scheduled on Oct. 16 to remove both the tail end of the pancreas and spleen.

During the procedure the doctor found that the tumor, a little larger than a golf ball, had wrapped itself around the aorta artery inside the pancreas.


Only the spleen was removed. The plan is for me to undergo six months of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, followed by another surgery to remove the tumor. My surgeon said after the tumor is gone my pancreas should function completely.

A very positive outcome, considering surgery is not always an option for patients with pancreatic cancer.

I am so grateful to my support system of health professionals, family and friends.

My hospital stay was made more pleasant by the wonderful nurses and assistant nurses at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. I can’t remember all of their names, but Edith and Thelma were the stand-outs.


Edith has a constant smile and exuberant spirit. Thelma is a veteran nurse who sticks to business but is also very compassionate.

Although the first few days in the hospital are foggy, I must have made an impression because many nurses who had cared for me came by to say “hi” even if they weren’t assigned to me that day.

The first nurse that took care of me after surgery was there when I left the hospital and promised to be there for me throughout this journey.

I offer a special thank you to the artists whose paintings hang on the walls of the seventh floor. Walking is encouraged after surgery, and it was so inspiring to see my favorites day after day as I walked the hallway.

You could almost feel the satiny iris bathed in cellophane colors of blue and lilac in one watercolor. In another painting, two women in large floppy hats shop in Paris. These visuals allow a patient to be transformed to another time, if only for a few moments.

My surgeon says the best medicine for my illness is positive thinking. So, I’m looking beyond the daily struggles and envisioning the life I’m looking forward to living — pain free and cancer free.

Joyce Rudolph can be reached at Get well cards can be mailed c/o Joyce Rudolph, 2527 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505.