“I was devastated. I couldn't breathe when they called and told me there was a mass on my pancreas.”
In early 2020, Rana started having frequent heartburn. She was in the middle of relocating her parents and working as a program director for a Medical Laboratory Technician program, so she wrote it off to stress. Then, her skin started to constantly itch, but she simply slathered on another layer of lotion and continued with her life. Slowly though, symptoms became undeniable – her urine was dark, her stool looked like clay, the heartburn wouldn’t go away, and she was exhausted all the time.
Rana scheduled an appointment with her primary care physician, who gave her medicine for heartburn and steroids to soothe her skin. She also drew Rana’s blood to be analyzed for a Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP). When the results came back, it was clear something was very wrong.
“A simple, ordinary, lab test caused my doctor to immediately order a CT scan for the following day where the mass on my pancreas was found. My type of pancreatic cancer has a 5-year survival rate of less than 5%. It's hard not to "what if" myself. I often think, what if my doctor had not ordered that lab test?”
After the mass was found, Rana was immediately sent to the emergency room. Rana received a round of chemotherapy to prepare for a Whipple procedure, which is a complex surgery in which the head of the pancreas is removed, as well as the gallbladder, the bile duct, and the first part of the small intestine. For most pancreatic cancers, the Whipple is the only known cure. Rana’s surgery was successful—the laboratory team (i.e., pathologists and laboratory professionals) analyzed the tumor and it showed cleaned margins, meaning they had successfully removed the cancer from her pancreas, Though her pathology report showed that the tumor was fully removed, Rana received a second round of chemotherapy to ensure that the cancer was gone.
Rana still sees her oncologist on a regular basis and has lab tests done every three months to make sure the rest of her pancreas is functioning as it should. So far, she is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery. She is still working, teaching the next generation of Medical Lab Scientists.