Health Team

Wife, faith, other patients help pancreatic cancer survivor

Pancreatic cancer patient Mitch Meacham says his outlived his prognosis through the support of his faith, wife and other cancer patients.

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DURHAM, N.C. — Pancreatic cancer is usually not diagnosed until it is advanced. Consequently, although it's only the eighth-most common cancer, it's the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the nation.

Mitch Meacham said he outlived his prognosis through the support of his faith, wife and other cancer patients.

"Dec. 2, 2006, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer," he said.

Doctors gave him six months to live, and facing the end of his life, Mitch Meacham decided to make a new beginning

He and his high school sweetheart, Selena, created a blended family with three daughters and a son from their previous marriages.

"We got married six months after my diagnosis," he said.

Despite fatigue and the side effects of cancer treatments, he tried keep up his fast-paced life.

"I feel like if I slow down, if I stop, the cancer's going to catch me," he said.

In a support group, Mitch Meacham found that those fears and questions were too familiar to other patients at Duke University Hospital.

"I can tell somebody who doesn't have cancer all day long what it's like, but until you've had it you don't really know," he said, adding that he learned as much from the other patients as from doctors.

"It's been incredible to see this kind of people, how they overcome like this," Selena Meacham said. "They continue to wake up every day and go on with their life."

Meacham said he surprised himself and his doctors with his resilience, going strong three years after he was told he only had six months to live.

"They say I'm unusual," he said.

When they got married, Mitch Meacham promised Selena that he would go to their 30-year high school reunion together. The reunion was this month. He has also lived to see his youngest daughter graduate from high school.

Mitch and Selena Meacham said they avoid dwelling on the future and live in the moment.

"I see us together for, I hope, a very long time," Selena Meacham said.

"Just live every day, because we're not promised tomorrow," Mitch Meacham said.