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Eunice Hughes – Pancreatic Cancer Success Story

Eunice Hughes – From Pancreatic Cancer Patient to Golf Club Champion

A relaxing camping trip upended by a cancer diagnosis

Eunice Hughes – Pancreatic Cancer Success Story Eunice Hughes, Whipple procedure patient
and pancreatic cancer survivor, with her
husband of more than 50 years

Eunice Hughes of Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin was where she loved to be — outdoors camping on a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama — with Dick, her husband of 54 years, when a friend pointed out how yellow her eyes were. For a few weeks before Eunice hadn't felt herself. She had a metallic taste in her mouth and was queasy, but she hadn't worried too much. She decided to call her son Kent, a physician, who advised her to go to the local emergency room.

By the end of that Thursday afternoon, Eunice was told she had pancreatic cancer and only two to three months to live.

Her son intervened again, urging his mother to go to Methodist Dallas Medical Center for a consultation with Dr. Richard Dickerman, an independently practicing transplant surgeon on the Methodist Health System medical staff. Dr. Dickerman recommended the Whipple procedure and performed surgery to remove her tumors on April 4, 2004, the Monday after her initial diagnosis, at Methodist Dallas.

Optimism and action for tackling pancreatic cancer

Eunice believes her decision to act quickly and come to Methodist Dallas may have been one of the decisions that saved her life. Dr. Dickerman was "optimistic right from the beginning. I still think if I had been up north (in Wisconsin) we would have done tests for a long time. Dr. Dickerman just took action. I felt that he did a terrific job. He did everything he possibly could have to help cure me."

The road to recovery, "outstanding" nursing care, and family support

"I remember waking up in the recovery room — the Whipple is a long procedure, 7 or 8 hours — and Dr. Dickerman made sure I was moved to a quiet room quickly where I could be surrounded by my family, Dick, my sons, daughter, and grandchildren."

"The nursing care at Methodist was outstanding. I'm not just saying that because Kent (her son, a doctor) was there. Everyone was so nice."

"I have all good things to say about Methodist. Everyone went out of their way. They really did. I had a feed line in after the surgery, but I was able to eat right away. They brought in a huge big chicken and baked potato. I remember thinking 'oh my word' I couldn't possibly eat that and they brought me Jello!"

In grateful appreciation of the care she received, Eunice and Dick sent boxes of Hughes Chocolate from Oshkosh to the nursing staff. Dr. Dickerman, who received his box later, wondered if he "was going to get one — and then shared it with the nursing staff!"

"Tough old mom" returns home, celebrates milestones, becomes championship golfer

Eunice returned to Wisconsin and started an aggressive regiment of chemotherapy Eunice, surrounded by her family, on a
cruise to celebrate five years of survival
following her Whipple procedure for
pancreatic cancer

After recuperating in Texas at her son's home, surrounded by the wild flowers and warmed by the spring winds, Eunice returned to Wisconsin and started an aggressive regiment of chemotherapy, which her oncologist warned only one of his patients, a "tough old teacher," had completed. Not to be outdone, Eunice, a "tough old mom" made it through.

Momentous milestones followed. "When I had gone one year, everything was so good," Eunice says. "I felt I had done everything. The doctors up here, the oncologist, radiologist, they all said this (cancer) is going to come back. But I knew I was going to live."

After the Whipple procedure, Eunice had asked Dr. Dickerman when she could return to golfing, a favorite activity. He said she could go back whenever she wanted - she wasn't going to hurt the work that he did. She started back to golf the first Wednesday after she returned to Wisconsin. She was tired, but she was hitting really well and her chemo patch actually helped her putting. But she told her husband she wasn't going to win the club championship.

"I continued to play golf all summer, started skiing when it snowed. My stamina was back. At first, I was tired and unable to finish, Dick and I had to cancel dinner plans, but my energy was back."

A few months after the fifth anniversary of her successful Whipple procedure, Eunice won the Gateway Ladies Golf League Championship Tournament, proving to herself and anyone who doubted her ability to survive that she could do not just that but thrive and grow as well.

Eternal hope and a message to others — to fight cancer "head on"

Eunice Hughes – Pancreatic Cancer Pancreatic cancer survivor and Whipple
procedure patient Eunice Hughes with her
husband at a hidden waterfall in the Ottawa
National Forest in the Western Upper
Peninsula of Michigan

"The view out of the Methodist Dallas hospital windows to downtown Dallas is terrific. My devotional was, 'If I make it through this, I'll do anything You want me to do.'" >"To be perfectly honest, I did not have difficult times. I have a lot of faith. I don't think I ever got down and thought 'Why me?' The cancer was something that happened and my immune system didn't fight it and we — me, my family, Dr. Dickerman — just fought it head on."

Eunice's message to others diagnosed with cancer?
"This is your cancer and it's not going away. Get something done. Cancer doesn't take long. It's your body. It's not the doctor's. This is something that you have to take care of. Go at it as aggressively as you possibly can. Stall. Stall. Stall. It's not going to go away on its own."

"I think Dr. Dickerman is a very aggressive doctor. He's not going to shy away. I thank him every year on my anniversary. Of all the doctors out there I got the one who said we're going to deal with this. We're going to take care of this. He gave me the choice of immediately doing this. And we did."

"The first two letters in God are GO. You can't sit back. He's going to hold your hand but you've got to be willing to grab it and go. You've got to work at it."

A bright future with new adventures

Eunice Hughes recently passed the six year pancreatic cancer survivor mark and she's grateful. She believes exercise and cancer recovery go together. This past fall she took part in a 25 mile bike race to raise money for pancreatic cancer. Of the more than 1,200 participants, she was stunned that only 12 were survivors like herself. Those are odds she wants to change with her message — to fight, be aggressive, and take action against cancer.

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 214-947-1766.