• By Laurel Kelly

Sharing Mayo Clinic: A pancreatic cancer story with a happy ending

December 8, 2019
Sharing Mayo Clinic patient John Magee

When doctors discovered a stage 3 tumor on John Magee's pancreas that they deemed inoperable, John took his health into his own hands by seeking a second opinion at Mayo Clinic. That decision made all the difference. Today, John is cancer-free.


Looking back, the signs were there. "I can see I was sick," John Magee says. "Even though I might not have felt it, looking back at old pictures, I looked it."

By the time of his annual physical exam in January 2016, however, John had begun to feel it. "At the end of my physicals, my doctor always asks me the same two questions, 'John, do you feel sick in your body, or do you feel sick emotionally?'" he says. "For the first time in my life, I answered yes to both."

Those responses were a result of weeks of unexplained pain in John's lower back that had left him physically and emotionally worn down. After John admitted he was in pain, his primary care physician set about determining its cause. "We started doing tests to try to figure out what was going on," John says. "Initially, we thought I'd herniated a disk in my back again because I'd done that before."

Test results showed the problem wasn't in his back, and the true source of the pain remained a mystery. After weeks of being unable to pinpoint a cause or a solution, John began doing his own research. "One night, I read that the pain pattern I was experiencing is common with pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer," he says. "So I talked to my doctor about it."

Initially, John's doctor was skeptical. "We've been friends for 30 years, so that possibility was hard for him to accept at first," John says. When John's pain became so severe, however, that it forced him to go to his local emergency department, it was that longtime friend and primary care physician who urged his other care providers to focus on John's pancreas. "By him insisting they do that, they found the tumor," John says.

Read the rest of the story.

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This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

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