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David Shott — Pancreatic Cancer Story

David and Mary Shott

It was August 17, 2018 when David Shott, then 54, looked in the mirror and noticed a strange yellow tinge in the whites of his eyes. He and his wife were supposed to go to a concert to see one of their favorite bands. Instead, he headed straight to the hospital at the urging of his gastroenterologist.

At the UPMC East Emergency Department, a battery of tests revealed a suspicious mass at the head of his pancreas. David was sent to UPMC Presbyterian where an endoscopy procedure and biopsy confirmed the mass was malignant — stage IIB pancreatic cancer.

“I was shocked — utter disbelief,” says David, a Murrysville resident. “I thought maybe I needed gallbladder surgery. This knocked me for a loop.”

At the suggestion of a friend who works at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, David quickly made an appointment with Amer H. Zureikat, MD, chief of surgical oncology. Dr. Zureikat, who is also vice chair of surgery for surgical oncology in the UPMC Department of Surgery, is an internationally known expert in pancreatic and other gastrointestinal cancers.

“I could not have fallen into better hands. He is an absolute wizard,” says David, a project manager for a Pittsburgh area engineering and consulting firm. “I put all my trust and faith in Dr. Zureikat and his team.”

In addition to a 2.2-centimeter tumor found on David’s pancreas, the biopsy showed the cancer had spread to three lymph nodes. Working together, David’s doctors decided to start him on chemotherapy in a clinical trial prior to surgery. After a port was implanted, he began two months of chemotherapy at UPMC Hillman in Shadyside.

“The goal was to zap rogue cancer cells outside the pancreas and potentially shrink the tumor to make it easier to remove,” says David. “The tumor shrank by approximately 30%.”

In November 2018, David returned to UPMC Presbyterian where Dr. Zureikat performed the complex robotic Whipple procedure. During the delicate and lengthy surgery, he removed David’s gall bladder, the head of the pancreas, the first foot of the small intestine (duodenum), the bile duct, a minimal portion of the stomach, and 23 lymph nodes.

Two months later in mid-January 2019, David began another regimen of chemotherapy. The original target was to complete at least 8 rounds of chemo, but David was able to finish the entire 12 rounds over 6 months.

“I kept plowing through. I was determined to make all 12 treatments,” says David. Remarkably, throughout both rounds of chemotherapy, he never missed a day of work.

On July 11, 2019, family and friends lined the hallway at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center when he rang the bell after his final treatment. Two years later, David remains cancer free. He continues to see the UPMC Hillman team for follow-up appointments, and has bloodwork done periodically and CT scans taken about every six months.

“So far, everything is clear,” says David. “Words can’t nearly express the gratitude I have in my heart. I was given my life back and I’m so grateful. I was never just another patient. They always had my welfare at the forefront.”

David's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.