When Carl McMurray, 50, learned he would need 12 rounds of chemotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer, he determined to make the best of his circumstances. During each chemotherapy appointment, Carl dons a clever costume. He’s dressed up like he’s attending a luau, in ‘60s and ‘80s throwback outfits, and as a Star Wars Stormtrooper, a pirate, and a cowboy.
Carl learned he had pancreatic cancer in November 2020. His journey to the diagnosis began when he decided to lose weight earlier that year: “Every time you go to your family doctor, they tell you to lose weight and eat right. I wasn’t healthy. I was close to 300 pounds and decided after seeing my doctor that I didn’t want to be that heavy and wanted to lose weight. I started cutting carbs and drinking water instead of soda. The weight started coming off and it was kind of easy.”
Eventually, he couldn’t keep weight on and started having digestive issues. McMurray returned to his primary care physician, Jennifer Mathews, MD, for a follow-up visit and was diagnosed with diabetes. He told her about his symptoms, so she referred him to Andrew Rackoff, MD, a gastroenterologist. After testing, Dr. Rackoff explained that the reason McMurray was losing so much weight was that his pancreatic duct was blocked – and then they found a tumor on his pancreas during a CT scan. Carl was referred to the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte for a surgery called the Whipple procedure, during which the surgeon removed part of his stomach, duodenum and pancreatic head, and all his appendix and gallbladder.
After the surgery, he met with Dr. James Radford at Pardee Cancer Center. Carl went through 12 rounds of chemotherapy every two weeks. He received infusions for five hours during each appointment and then wore a medication pump at home for two more days. While the treatment
has been grueling, he says the care he receives from the Pardee team is top-notch: “The care is a lot more personalized than at other places. It seems like a well-rounded, individual approach. I would rather go to Pardee than anywhere else.”
To combat the dread he felt before each chemotherapy session, Carl decided that he would dress up for each of his treatments. He says, “If I have to be there, why not make it fun? “Some of the staff dressed up with me on Star Wars day. It makes it fun for them and it makes it fun for me instead of dreading it. I’ll dress up as long as I’m able to.”
Carl encourages other people going through cancer treatment to “take it step by step, one treatment at a time. Don’t look at the statistics – everyone’s story is different.” He also says his faith is stronger since he was diagnosed and he’s grateful for the support of his family and friends. “I put my faith in God and whatever His plan is,” he says. “The beginning of my cancer diagnosis has been a long, hard trip. Surviving the surgery and COVID-19 was nothing short of a miracle. It’s been a rough year, but it’s getting better. There’s light at the end of the tunnel now.”
Learn about Pardee’s cancer services and read more stories like this in our Cancer Annual Report.