Douglas Lengyel had not been feeling well for weeks when he went to the emergency room in October 2011 with a viral infection. The doctors did a CAT scan to see if they could determine the cause of his illness, but did not find anything except a small spot on his pancreas.
“The doctor dismissed the spot, and said that it wasn’t anything that was concerning. Probably just a cyst,” Douglas said. “Afterwards, when I went to see my general physician, he did an MRI and saw that the spot had gotten bigger. He wanted to do a biopsy, but thought he would have trouble getting to it. Instead, he recommended I have it removed.”
Douglas’s internal medicine doctor referred him to a general surgeon, but Douglas decided that he wanted to work with a specialist. A friend recommended Dr. Kim Vanderveen, a surgeon at Rose Medical Center who specializes in endocrine diseases. He made an appointment and took his MRI scan for her to look at.
“She told me that it wasn’t a cyst, but was a tumor,” Douglas recalled. “She said that I needed to have surgery immediately.”
In November 2011 Douglas had surgery. The tumor turned out to be a rare and aggressive type of pancreatic cancer. In a month’s time, he had progressed from Stage 1 to Stage 2.
“I owe Dr. Vanderveen my life,” Douglas said. “I was sick, but she was the first doctor who really listened to me. Since then, she’s been there for me every step of the way. She is so dedicated to her patients and their care. I know that I can call her at any time and she will be there.”
Since his surgery, Douglas has had regular appointments to watch his tumor markers.
Today, he likes to spend his time fly fishing, painting and working on projects–like building water features and fountains.
“I try to do things that relax me, and where I get to work with my hands,” Douglas said. “It keeps me busy and helps with my overall recovery.”
Douglas says that he wishes there was more information about the mental aspect of surviving cancer, and hopes to work as an advocate and help others who have been recently diagnosed.
“I think sometimes the mental aspect of cancer is ignored,” Douglas said. “Sometimes you’re left with a lot of guilt and a ‘why me?’ mentality. Having cancer is a life changing experience, and it’s important to address both the physical and mental elements of it.”
The Rose “Surviving Well” calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians and inspirational stories from our patients. Douglas is our survivor for December.