Cheryl Frazier – Pancreatic Cancer Success Story

Pancreatic cancer patient Cheryl Frazier – a journey of healing and faith

Cheryl Frazier – Pancreatic Cancer Success Story Pancreatic cancer patient Cheryl Frazier
at Methodist's annual cancer survivor's
celebration, November 2010.

Cheryl Frazier was a 54-year-old, married, mother of two from Grand Prairie in June 2006, when she first began feeling ill, not like her usual self. She saw several doctors who at first thought she might have a bile duct blockage. She had multiple surgeries including one to remove her gallbladder. But a few months passed, and things just weren't right.

"I initially told Dr. Jeyarajah that I was going on vacation. He told me that surgery was that important and couldn't wait." Cheryl finally went to see Paul Tarnasky, MD, independently practicing gastroenterologist on the Methodist Health System medical staff, who diagnosed a small tumor on the outside of her pancreas. He recommended that she see Dhiresh R. Jeyarajah, MD, independently practicing surgeon on the Methodist Health System medical staff. Within 30 minutes of the diagnosis from Dr. Tarnasky, Cheryl and her husband were talking with Dr. Jeyarajah. This was a Monday, by that Friday in November 2006, Cheryl would be at Methodist Dallas Medical Center for a Whipple procedure to remove her pancreatic tumor.

Before her visit with Dr. Jeyarajah, a family friend who is also a surgeon told her to prepare a list of questions in case she ended up meeting with a surgeon. Dr. Jeyarajah answered all but one before she had a chance to ask them. The question Cheryl asked: mortality rate. "I'm a matter of fact person," Cheryl says. "I wanted to know what I was up against."

"I feel like Dr. Jeyarajah gave both my husband and me such a great introductory lesson to the Whipple procedure and what I could expect. He drew pictures and put us at ease. I was totally confident in his skills." She appreciated the time he spent with her. "He acts like he has all day long to talk to you."

A friend at MD Anderson told Cheryl that she could investigate treatment options there, but Cheryl says she felt that after Dr. Tarnasky and a good family friend who's a surgeon recommended Dr. Jeyarajah, "that's where I was supposed to be."

Caring staff at Methodist Dallas provide guidance and support during pancreatic cancer treatment

Cheryl's pancreatic cancer was caught early and was in a good place. Still, she spent 14 days in the hospital following her Whipple procedure. Her experiences there couldn't have been better, given her situation.

"The care of the nurses at Methodist was just incredible. They're the most personable, caring staff I've ever seen." They took extra time with her when they knew she needed it. Cheryl recounts the story of how one night she was having a difficult time sleeping. Her nurse came in and told her that she'd just sit with her. Cheryl said just knowing that her nurse was willing to do that was enough.

Cheryl says that all of the staff – not just the nurses – made a difference in her stay. Each one found out something personal about her. "It gave you the feeling that you meant something to them."

A Christmas wish

Since her surgery was in early November, Cheryl brought a Christmas ornament to the hospital with her – a visual reminder that she planned to be better and out of the hospital in time to spend the holiday with her family.

"I'm a positive person and I vowed to stay that way even in the hospital." Several of the nurses even commented on her attitude.

Returning home, follow-up treatment, and a new perspective on life after pancreatic cancer treatment

Dr. Jeyarajah recommended chemotherapy and radiation following the Whipple procedure. But Cheryl says she didn't want to do it. Through consultation with her husband, it was decided she would have the follow-up.

"I lost and I won," Cheryl says. But today Cheryl is grateful for her follow up care at Texas Oncology – Methodist Dallas Cancer Center. She says it's given her the mindset that she's done as much as she could to be healthy.

Positive spirit intact, her pancreatic cancer diagnosis and treatment, was, Cheryl says, a good experience for what it was.

"It was not the path I wanted to be on, but I feel like I was led in the right direction. I'm a Christian, and I feel like the Lord led me directly to the right doctor for my case. Dr. Jeyarajah spoke to my spirit and put me at ease."

Eight-year pancreatic cancer survivor and counting. . .

Having passed the 8-year pancreatic cancer survivor mark, Cheryl looks forward to her 10-year anniversary. She says that life has returned to normal for the most part, with a few important lessons learned. If she had not been sick, she says she wouldn't have focused on the urgency to share life lessons with her teenage son and she now tries not to stress as much, acknowledging the positive in every situation.

Advice for other pancreatic cancer patients

Cheryl's advice for others diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and undergoing a Whipple procedure is to seek out the best doctors, nurses, and staff and to ask your questions to these qualified experts. She regularly attends the Pancreatic Cancer Support Group at Methodist Dallas, happy to share her story. She knows she looks healthy and she wants people who've recently had the Whipple surgery to see what a survivor can look like a few years out. If that can provide a guidepost on their journey through pancreatic cancer treatment, she's happy to stand up and be that inspiration.

A final word about Methodist's pancreatic cancer program

Cheryl says, that from her very first experience at Methodist Dallas, when she was going for pre-surgical testing and a volunteer graciously walked her exactly where she needed to be, she had a good impression of the hospital. "The doctors and staff at Methodist are such a blessing to anyone who's sick. If I ever have to go to the hospital for anything I'm going to Methodist."

Contact the Pancreatic Cancer Program at Methodist Dallas


For more information about pancreatic cancer treatment options and pancreatic cancer resources at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, call Nikisha Smith at 214-933-6601.