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Real Stories of Loss by Pancreatic Cancer from Careteam Plus

Losing Her Mother to Pancreatic Cancer by Kara-Anne Serradimigni (Executive Admin Assistant, Careteam Plus)

My mom Rosemary Bartolomeo was my best friend! I had the best role model, friend and mentor in my mom and I know she has helped guide me throughout my motherhood as well. We were sometimes called by friends and family “The Bobbsie Twins”. I loved every minute spending time with my mom. She was born and raised in Brooklyn NY – I am sure that is where I got my “street smarts” from. Rosemary never a met stranger; everyone she met or came in contact with ended up being a friend. She had a personality larger than life and heart of gold! People were always drawn to her as she had a very nurturing, kind, loving way about her with everyone. Very much a caregiver. She was also strong, protective “mama bear” and NO ONE would ever mess with the ones she loved!

I was married April of 1998 along with a second reception in September in Chicago – that’s what happens when you have a Big Italian Family! Months leading up to my wedding, my mother kept saying something was not “right.” She felt bloated and was gaining weight at a rapid rate but she would deal with it after all the wedding festivities. On the flight home from Chicago, my mom was in such severe pain that the plane almost had to make an emergency landing. She and everyone thought, where the pain was concentrated, was her gallbladder. Test after test after test finally came back with the horrible news of Pancreatic Cancer. A few days after we found out about my mom’s cancer diagnosis, my husband and I found out we were having our first baby.

Very little was known about Pancreatic Cancer at that time. The only known person at that time was Michael Landon. So I did my research as best as I could and found an organization called PanCan. They had just started the foundation and I had the pleasure of speaking with the two founders who was able to educate me on this very silent disease. In the leading years after my mom had passed, I became very involved with PanCAN organization, which was the only one at the time. Since then, other organizations have since formed such as National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.

As I had learned, the life expectancy then was very short. They had given my mom 3-5 months to live. Unfortunately, my mom was not a candidate for a procedure called Pancreaticoduodenectomy, also knows as the Whipple Procedure. The procedure has helped many who were fortunate enough to have one. So what did my mom do with that news? She lived it up to the fullest for as long as she could. She shopped for her unborn grandbaby. And when I say shopped, I mean she bought my baby clothes from newborn sizes all the way until our child was 2T-3T knowing she would never get a chance to meet my baby.

She planned her own funeral so the burden would not have to be on any of her family. She kept her sense of humor for most of her remaining days. Fast forward 5 months to January 27, 1999, my beautiful mom passed away at the age of 59 very peacefully at home with all her family around her.

Fast forward a few more months and my daughter Rosemaria was born. I was fortunate enough to know the sex of my baby before my mom passed away and share this news that she was going to be a grandma of a baby girl named after her! Since her passing, I know there has been great medical strides with better treatments and early detection tools that will increase survival.

Losing Her Brother to Pancreatic Cancer, by Kathy Gregory (Director of HR, Careteam Plus)

My brother Tom was born 8/29/1957 he passed on 4/30/2008 at only 50 years old. He served in the US Airforce for approximately 17 years and went onto work for a major law firm in NYC. He suffered for 7 years from unexplained pain. He had his gallbladder removed as a result of severe pain, and exploratory surgery later on after it was realized that it was not the gallbladder that had caused the pain. The exploratory surgery revealed nothing. He was finally diagnosed in 2000 by CT scan with VIPoma in yet another visit to the emergency room in severe pain.

A VIPoma is a rare cancer caused by a type of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, which is a tumor that arises from cells that produce hormones – allowing the tumor itself to produce hormones. VIPomas are usually diagnosed between 30 and 50 years of age in adults and between two and four years of age in children. Symptomatic pancreatic VIPomas are usually solitary, more than 3 cm in diameter, and occur in the tail of the pancreas in 75 percent of patients. Approximately 60 to 80 percent of VIPomas have metastasized by the time of diagnosis.

Tests used to diagnose a VIPoma may include blood tests (including VIP level), imaging studies such as a CT scan or MRI , and examination of a stool sample. Unfortunately, even though these tumors are slow-growing, the majority of VIPomas are metastatic (have spread to other parts of the body) at the time of diagnosis.

In a beautiful, simple ceremony my brother married the love of his life the day before he underwent removal of the majority of his pancreas as well as his spleen. His recovery was long and painful but the surgery gave him a new chance at life and so he did, he lived his life to the fullest while he could. Unfortunately the cancer returned, and metastasized.

He has 2 sons who now have 6 children of their own and his 2 stepchildren have 5 grandchildren. Our family miss him more than words can say. My hope for the our future and the future of our children is early genetic testing as well as early detection through a simple blood test. The Lutzgarten Foundation for pancreatic cancer research has made amazing strides to see that hope realized. If you would like to learn more about pancreatic cancer or donate to the cause please visit the Lutzgarten Foundation website.

He was my big brother, he was always there for advice, great stories and since our Dad died years prior, he gave me away at my wedding

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