September 25, 2018
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A Love Story

The Moores find strength in a community of believers

Bear with me. This is a story of hope, but I have to be honest. Once or twice a day I just want to punch something. The anger rises as the reality hits me again: my wife, Ann, has incurable cancer. I used to actually make a fist and raise it. I don’t anymore. Anger isn’t productive. It’s still there, but I don’t let it rule me.

In May of 2007 — after months of sleepless nights and excruciating, unexplained back and abdominal pain — Ann was finally diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Surgery is the only “curative,” but because Ann’s tumor is tangled up with several blood vessels, surgery was not an option.

The prognosis for people with inoperable pancreatic cancer is so grim that one reasonable option is to do nothing more than just get your affairs in order and call in hospice. This beast kills 90 percent of its victims in the first year. Only three percent are alive after five years. Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University professor who wrote the best seller The Last Lecture after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, has said he’d gladly trade his diagnosis for that of AIDS. We know what he means. Pancreatic cancer accounts for only two percent of all new cancers in the United States, but it is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths.

We could have given in to the brutal inevitability, but we chose to fight. I’ll never forget the night we gathered our children and parents together to pray. With tears in his eyes, Ann’s father said, “I’m not that spiritual. All I know how to do is fight.” It was a defining moment: the power of God combined with the human instinct to survive.

Ann entered a clinical trial at Indiana University Medical Center. The treatment included weekly chemotherapy, five weeks of daily radiation zapped right into her gut, and a chemotherapy pill which was under trial. The goal was to shrink the tumor enough for surgery. It didn’t work. Ann got sick, threw up everything she ate, and lost 35 pounds.

Watching her dress one day I said, “Ann, you look anorexic.” She said, “No, I don’t. I look like a concentration camp prisoner.” She was right. But even at her lowest, her unconquerable beauty shone through.

Even though the tumor didn’t shrink, it didn’t grow or spread. It wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but it gave us the chance to keep fighting. Unfortunately, the treatment caused ulcers to form in Ann’s stomach. She developed serious internal bleeding and had to leave the trial in January. The blood loss plunged her closer to death than we even realized at the time.

After months of recovery, our search for the best care possible led us to Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. Ann is now being treated with a combination chemotherapy written by her oncologist at Hopkins and administered by her oncologist here in Evansville. As I write this in early June, Ann is stable and her quality of life is good.

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