Pancreatic cancer has traditionally been a deadly cancer. When Stuart Rickerson discovered he had it, he and his wife, Nancy, were willing to go anywhere in the world to get the best treatment. They compiled a list of top medical centers and pancreatic cancer specialists and started visiting them all. It took one meeting with Dr. Margaret Tempero, gastrointestinal oncologist and director of the UCSF Pancreas Center, for Rickerson to decide where to get treated.
Pancreatic Cancer: The Hunt for the Best Care
Why did you choose UCSF?
My wife and I decided that this was a serious disease and we would move wherever we had to for the best treatment. I had surgery after I was diagnosed, and while I was in the hospital, my wife tapped into our network of friends and family and identified all the top medical centers in America. She created a road show of places for us to visit, and UCSF was one of them.
After we met with Dr. Tempero, I turned to my wife in the elevator and said, "We don't need to go to any of the other doctors. We'll get the best care here."
What impressed you so much?
Dr. Tempero is really a rock star in medicine and in this field. She exudes confidence. She'll give you the straight answers, but she'll encourage you along the way. Her spirit never flagged even when ours sometimes did.
When you asked Dr. Tempero about your odds, what did she tell you?
She said, "Individuals beat pancreatic cancer. We're going to treat you as an individual." That was the last time we talked about odds. Here it is eight years later.
Describe your experience at UCSF.
My treatment at UCSF was unbelievable. From the receptionists to the nurses to the researchers and the doctors, everyone was first-rate. I think this trickles down from Dr. Tempero – everyone was positive and uplifting and supportive. They gave us a true assessment of where we were while helping us get the outcome they were hoping to achieve.
How do you live your life now, eight years after your diagnosis?
My getting pancreatic cancer completely changed our approach to life. I was a successful business executive and that meant nothing to me anymore. Family was most important. We try to live our lives day by day, try to make happy memories with family and friends.
I wouldn't want anyone else to go through this, but we are very happy where we are today.
What advice do you give other patients?
Find a doctor and an institution you can trust, and then trust them.