Last November, when Bob Clark’s friend told him his skin was a little yellow and he didn’t look well, he wasn’t too concerned. Then he noticed that his urine and stool changed colored. So, he did what many of us would do – he Googled his symptoms. Convinced he had gall stones, he booked an appointment with his doctor. He expected to get a prescription for medication to alleviate his symptoms, but he didn’t get what he expected.
After reviewing Bob’s blood test results, his doctor urged him to go to the emergency ward for an immediate CT scan. Bob went home to pick up his wife, Angie, and then together, they headed to the hospital for the scan. The emergency doctor delivered the news. Bob had a “bad” tumor on his pancreas. The good news was that it seemed to be confined to the pancreas. The doctor offered sleeping tablets and medication for the itch Bob was experiencing as a result of his jaundice. He also suggested that Bob should have a stent inserted to re-open up his bile duct as soon as possible. Aside from that, he told Bob he’d have to wait until January just for a consultation about surgery! Waiting that long for treatment felt like a life sentence.
When Bob’s older brother Nick got the news about the tumour and the long wait, he took charge of things. Together the brothers consulted with their cousin, Jeff, a GP who strongly recommended against waiting. Even though the tumour was confined to the pancreas at this time, if they waited and it spread, his chances of surviving could be reduced. With Jeff’s help, Bob and Nick found an opportunity for immediate medical care and on December 5th, Bob had a ten hour surgery called the Whipple procedure by Dr. Shapiro and his team in Edmonton. More good news – the surgery was successful.
After ten days in the hospital and another week in a hotel recovering, Bob got his wish to be home for Christmas, arriving on December 23rd, exhausted but happy to be home. Back in British Columbia, Bob started his six month chemo regimen in January.
Jeff, the GP also highly recommended InspireHealth to Bob for support through his journey after surgery, during chemo and recovery. Bob and his wife Angie became members, attended the Life Program and soon after consulted with the InspireHealth clinical staff.
One of the topics addressed in a visit with his InspireHealth doctor, Judy Tang was about what hobbies Bob enjoys. He told her that he had always loved photography. He also wanted to change his diet, something he had begun earlier that year but had “fallen off the wagon”. And that he used to love gardening. It felt good to be reminded of those things.
Bob clearly recalls a moment in January, sitting by his window at home, looking down to the old orchard below and dreaming about building a beautiful vegetable garden there. Something clicked! And that was it – he made up his mind to do it. The garden would be his project over the months while he was going through treatment. He was only working part time, and he had some extra hours and Bob Clark is not someone who sits around! His conversation with Judy had planted the seed (no pun intended!)
The garden was a labour of love – mostly created by Bob, but with help from his brother Jim and a couple of friends. Bob’s wife Angie was not keen with his idea at first, because he had not been a lot of help around the house or with their three children lately. And she knows he can get completely consumed in big projects. But when she realized that the garden would become such an important part of his therapy, making him feel really good and giving him a purpose, she gave her support.
Excavation began in February, then Bob had organic dirt and manure brought in. A friend helped trim the trees to let in more light. In April, he started planting seeds for some of the vegetables indoors to transfer as seedlings in May, when other veggies went into the spring soil directly as seeds. Bob loved working outdoors, getting his hands dirty, and creating something.
In the meantime, he began eating a healthful diet accompanied by nutritional supplements to support his recovery. He could proudly list off the ingredients in his morning smoothie: probiotics, local berries, fresh carrot juice, home-raised eggs, avocado, hemp seeds, virgin coconut oil, whole-food meal replacement powder, etc.
When the first garden produce sprouted and then he harvested fresh baby greens, Bob had an awesome sense of accomplishment. He produced lush green leaves of kale and chard and other healthy vegetables like beets and carrots. And throughout the summer, he reaped the benefits daily, juicing the various leafy greens and incorporating them into his family’s meals.
Bob loves his garden and spends time reflecting in peace, surrounded by the bounty he grew himself. He placed a block of wood that serves as a stool in the centre of his beautiful plants. Sometimes he sits there to meditate. This garden is truly a vision to admire.
Mid summer, Bob went back in for scans which came back with tremendous results – all negative, no cancer. The doctor said to him: “Whatever you are doing, keep it up”. Bob was overjoyed and he was quick to show his gratitude to his friends and family.
Things to Be Thankful For
He credits his Whipple Procedure and the timing of it, the support he received from his naturopath and his team at InspireHealth. He is thankful to Dr. Judy Tang and her encouragement to take time for himself and his passions, and to Angela Wright (Lead Nutritionist at InspireHealth) for her nutritional guidance. And, he has deep gratitude to his family for their unwavering love and support.
Bob fervently recommends InspireHealth programs whenever the opportunity arises. Reflecting on his experiences, he feels that he no longer lets the little things in life bother him and he sees the value of life more clearly now. He also wants to anyone with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis to know about the Whipple Warriors, a group that provides support for those few people who have endured this intense procedure and as a result, must learn to live with much less internal digestive organ tissue.
In the past, Bob was a private person, not wanting unnecessary attention. Now he realizes that by sharing his story he may inspire others. And he has so many things to share. But most of all, he wants to tell them to be pro-active about getting what they need and to not let cancer stop them from living life to its fullest.
– as told to Lisa Marie Bhattacharya