Lynchburg Man Grateful for Cancer Diagnosis

Lynchburg, VA - In this season of Thanksgiving, one Madison Heights man is thankful for his cancer diagnosis.

Might sound odd, but he has a cancer that often gets missed.

The new normal for Jerry Campbell is his monthly visit to his oncologist in Lynchburg to get the shot that helps keep him alive.

"The injection hurt a little bit more than it did the first month," Campbell said.

Jerry and his wife Mary got the news in July.

"Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor is what the diagnoses is," he said. "They said I've had this tumor for years."

Dr. Kevin Patel is Jerry's local oncologist.

"It's a very rare cancer," Patel said. "Approximately 3 per million cases a year are diagnosed."

He says in many cases pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors are misdiagnosed.

"That's one of the challenges for this cancer. It starts in the pancreas, many people may notice some non-specific symptoms of abdominal discomfort, they may have some other symptoms of nausea, losing weight," Patel said. "When it spreads to other organs then it's more organ specific symptoms."

Jerry's wife, Mary Campbell, says, "They say one of the things doctors are taught is when you hear hoof beats, think horses because it is typically going to be what the symptom is. But in this case, it's not a horse, it's a zebra."

A zebra striped cancer may be only fitting for Jerry.

He lost his 19-year-old daughter Avery a year ago in a car accident in Campbell County.

Ever since she was a baby she slept with a little zebra.

"I told him, as soon as we found out that there was a ribbon and the zebra was their mascot," Mary said. "Avery was watching."

"I know that Avery, if she were here, she would want me to make sure I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, going to see the right doctors and listening," Jerry adds.

That's exactly what Jerry is doing.

He is taking the pain of loss and turning it into a determination to fight.

He has a team of doctors working with him in Baltimore, Charlottesville, and Lynchburg.

The prognosis is good and he's ready to fight this every step of the way.

"I think the biggest thing for me is to stay positive," he said.

Jerry's cancer has shed, meaning it has moved into his liver.

He says the next big piece of his treatment is to address that problem.