“It was all really a blessing,” explains Louise on how a mass was discovered on her pancreas. While most may not consider such a serious finding a blessing; Louise’s joy for life has found a positive outlook at every turn on this journey.
This past December 7, Louise Schott, lifelong Pocahontas resident was experiencing intense pain in her lower left abdomen. Knowing that a close friend happened to be going to the hospital, Louise called her and asked her to pick her up and take her with.
“My doctor, Dr. George, happened to be on call that day and he came and saw me in the ER. I was very happy to see him, he’s such a good doctor,” recalls Louise. Dr. George first ordered an x-ray in which nothing seemed amiss. “When the x-ray didn’t show anything, Dr. George ordered a CT scan. He said, ‘We are going to get to the bottom of this,’” states Louise. The CT scan revealed possible kidney stones, in which Louise would soon pass, but it was the CT scan that became her first blessing in disguise.
A few days later Louise would learn something else showed up in her CT scan, a possible mass on her pancreas. At that time Dr. George ordered an MRI, which validated Louise did in fact have a mass. Without hesitation, Dr. George refereed her to Dr. Laura Miegge, a surgeon with UnityPoint Clinic – Surgery in Fort Dodge, Louise’s next ‘journey blessing.’ “Dr. Miegge is such wonderful person and made me feel very confident I was in the right hands.”
The next step in her journey would take Louise to Des Moines for a diagnostic biopsy of the mass in the pancreas, by a GI specialist that our surgeons work very closely with. After the biopsy confirmed the mass in the pancreas to have malignant cells, Dr. Miegge referred Louise to Dr. Donchev, who specializes in diseases of the liver, bile ducts and pancreas and neuroendocrine tumors. The tumor that Louise had, was both pancreatic and neuroendocrine tumor at the same time. Dr. Donchev was the right surgeon for the job, as he recently moved to Fort Dodge after he finished his training in California focusing specifically on diseases of the liver, bile ducts and pancreas and neuroendocrine tumors.
“I’m so grateful to have Dr. Donchev and his expertise so close to home,” shares Louise. “He explained to me everything I would be going through and was very open with me on what to expect. But he was also very kind to me, he wanted to make sure I wasn’t scared, and I never was.”
In February, Louise would undergo surgery to remove the mass. Dr. Donchev, with the invaluable aid of fellow surgeons, Dr. Miegge and Dr. Willerth, who assisted him for various portions of the operation, performed the procedure known as the Whipple which would provide Louise with the best outcome for her disease, a rare tumor called a neuroendocrine neoplasm. In a Whipple procedure, the surgeon removes part of the pancreas, part of the bile duct, part of the intestine and part of the stomach. Then the surgeon reconnects the remaining pancreas, bile duct and stomach to the intestine, so that pancreatic digestive enzymes, bile and stomach contents will flow into the small intestine during digestion.
Three months after her surgery, Louise is feeling well and ready to take on the next part of her journey. “I feel so good that sometimes I forget all that I have been through and maybe do something I shouldn’t,” admits Louise. “I’m not sure how I will physically feel when I start chemotherapy, but I’m confident that all my doctors will take very good care for me. Dr. Donchev has been a great blessing to me.”
In addition to her surgery, Louise met with Dr. Sarah Tofilon, an Oncologist with Trinity Cancer Center to talk about her treatment options. While Dr. Donchev was able to remove all of the mass and Louise’s outlook is good, he felt they needed to be aggressive and treat any remaining cancer cells with chemotherapy. Between Louise and her healthcare team, they were able to decide a treatment plan that would work best for her.
Louise’s prognosis is positive at this time, she’s not worried about the journey ahead of her. When asked how she remains so upbeat and keeps her joyful attitude on life she responds, “My faith keeps me positive, I know God will take care of me. I also know that I have excellent doctors. They all are working together for my benefit, and I have complete faith in them.”