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Ken Parme – Pancreatic Cancer Patient Story

Ken Parme – Pancreatic Cancer

In 2012, Ken Parme of Ingram PA, began to experience pain in his chest, unexplained weight loss, and was feeling generally under the weather. His wife of 39 years insisted he go see the doctor, who soon diagnosed him with diabetes. Ken was in good shape at the time – eating healthy and working out – so they chalked the pain up to the pull-ups he frequently did. His wife wasn’t convinced, so he made an appointment with Dr. Helena Levitt, a UPMC endocrinologist. After confirming that Ken did have diabetes, a CT scan to find a source of the pain revealed pancreatic cancer.

“That was a diagnosis I never expected to hear,” Ken said. “Fortunately, Dr. Levitt is a good doctor – she knew Ken's medical oncologist, so she went ahead and made me appointments to see him.”

X-rays showed that Ken’s tumor was wrapped around his veins and lying against his aorta. Because of the size, Ken saw his medical oncologist and underwent chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. The goal was to decrease the size of the tumor enough to be able perform a Whipple surgery.

Around his fourth month of chemotherapy, Ken was told that his tumor wasn’t shrinking as much as they hoped. His oncology team suggested CyberKnife® Radiosurgery, which delivers radiation directly to the tumor, as the next step in treatment. Ken continued with his chemo treatments and suffered from many side effects such as neuropathy. At the time of his diagnosis, survival rates were only 15 percent over a two year period, and only five percent over a five year period. As of now, Ken is 4 1/2 years into the diagnosis and considers himself to be very fortunate to still be here.

Although it is still a long road, Ken is able to enjoy hobbies that he loves, like writing songs and spending time with his family. Together, Ken and his wife wrote a book about their journey with pancreatic cancer from each of their perspectives.

He is grateful to his oncology team for taking care of him and believes in their expertise.

“My wife and I both knew I was in good hands when we met the doctors. My medical oncologist pushes the envelope, but he’s not reckless. He gives everything a lot of thought,” Ken said. “They keep a good watch on you [at UPMC]. I have the highest regards for them.”