5-Year Pancreatic Cancer Survivors Describe New Outlook on Life

They’ve defied the odds. Elton Brown, Tony Romano, Sheila Sky Kasselman, William Burrell and Edna Gray are 5-year and 10-year survivors of pancreatic cancer, which has a 5-year survival rate of less than 8 percent.

Survival has given these five patients an inspiring new outlook on life, which they shared this Thanksgiving on WDIV-TV4. 

Five-Year Survivors

Five metro Detroiters have defied the odds: They are 5-year and 10-year survivors of pancreatic cancer. Survival has given each of them a new outlook on life.

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"When they told me I had cancer, my heart just dropped," recalled Elton Brown. 

David Kwon, M.D., medical director of surgical oncology at the Henry Ford Cancer Institute, recommended aggressive surgery for Brown’s pancreatic cancer. 

That was five years ago. Then, Brown had just one question: "I said, 'How long do you think I have if I don't have the operation?' He said, 'A year, maybe more.' I said, 'If I have it, then what?' Well then he said, 'You just have to wait until the man above calls you.' I said, 'Well, that's what we're going to do. Wait on the man above to call.'" 

He can smile about it now, but as another five-year survivor, Tony Romano said, "It was scary. There's no doubt about it. If anybody told you they weren't afraid, they would be lying, I believe." 
Edna Gray is another five-year survivor. Her diagnosis and treatment provided a greater appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. “Every day that I get up and make myself a cup of coffee, I appreciate that.” 

For William Burrell, a five-year survivor, having time is the most important thing. "You can have a billion dollars and can't buy one extra minute."

Ten-year survivor Sheila Sky Kasselman has made it her life's mission to help others through pancreatic cancer research, and the Sky Foundation that she founded.

"Hearing these things inspires me to go home right now and give my two boys a hug -- My boys, Andrew and Nathan, and my wife -- a hug, and really to be grateful for every minute that I have," Dr. Kwon said. 

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