When Irv Pakula, 76, talks about his wife of almost 55 years, Faye, he is quick to say she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
“She’s my everything—she always has been,” the Franklin Square, NY, resident said. And his everything likely saved his life last year, when she insisted that Irv go in for a colonoscopy.
“He was losing weight, and we didn’t know why,” she explained. “He has diabetes, and I thought maybe it was muscle wasting. So I got after him to go in for the colonoscopy so we could see if something else might be going on.”
While the colonoscopy was clear, that consult with the gastroenterologist led to an important conversation and follow-up test. When Irv and Faye told the doctor that he had a history of pancreatic cysts, as well as weight loss, the physician ordered a CT scan. The results showed a mass on his pancreas—and an endoscopic biopsy confirmed a diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
“It was like being hit on the back of the head with a brick,” Irv said. “But you have to play the hand you’re dealt. I knew it was bad, and I wanted to get it dealt with right away. My son, who is an EMT, knew someone at Northwell Health who highly recommended medical oncologist Craig Devoe, MD. So we set up an appointment to see him.”
As Irv was not a candidate for surgical treatment, Dr. Devoe suggested that he participate in a clinical trial for a novel drug treatment. Both Irv and Faye said that they appreciated Dr. Devoe’s direct, yet compassionate, manner right from the first appointment.
“Dr. Devoe and his staff sat in the room with us, and they started going over the trial, what it was and why he thought it would be best for me,” Irv said. “He didn’t pressure me or anything. He told me from the beginning, ‘This is your choice.’ In fact, he said that I might not even qualify for this phase III clinical trial—which, fortunately, I did. But he made Faye and I feel very comfortable. He made things easy to understand, easy to talk about—and he continues to make things that way.”
The two felt so comfortable with Dr. Devoe that they didn’t bother getting a second opinion, canceling an appointment they’d already made at another hospital as they came home from seeing Dr. Devoe.