How white poop was a telltale sign I had lethal pancreatic cancer… aged just 32


By Emily Joshu Health Reporter For Dailymail.Com

12:55 15 Apr 2024, updated 13:27 15 Apr 2024

  • Matthew Rosenblum was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer at age 32 
  • Despite low odds, treatment has allowed him to live for three and a half years 
  • READ MORE: Breakthrough in the fight against the world’s deadliest cancer

A Michigan man who was given a year to live after being diagnosed with lethal pancreatic cancer is still alive almost four later thanks to a ‘miracle’ drug combination. 

Matthew Rosenblum was just 32 years old in January 2021 when he realized he had lost weight and his stools had turned a bone-white color. 

‘At first, I thought I was hungover. I had a few beers the night before so I drank some Gatorade and lay in bed, but the urine did not get lighter,’ Mr Rosenblum told The Patient Story

The former PhD candidate was diagnosed with the common digestive condition Crohn’s Disease age 25, which causes inflammation in the colon. 

Mr Rosenblum assumed his symptoms were a result of the illness, as gastrointestinal distress was ‘part for the course for me’. 

However, within days his palms and the bottom of his feet started to itch, which he described as, ‘probably the worst’ symptom. ‘I never felt anything like it before and those are hard places to scratch,’ he said. 

Matthew Rosenblum, 35, was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer after doctors dismissed him as ‘too young’
Despite low odds, he has survived for three years with pancreatic cancer and has shown signs of improvement
Mr Rosenblum has said that while he does not expect to live for the next six years of his chemo treatment, he wants other patients to know ‘you are not a statistic’

‘After a whole night of itching, I put my hands and feet in the tub under hot water to numb the sensation.’

He visited the hospital where urgent care physicians told Mr Rosenblum his blood was high in bilirubin – a byproduct of broken-down red blood cells that influences stool color. 

High levels can indicate a blockage in the bile duct – a tube-like structure that connects the liver to the small bowel. 

Ultrasounds revealed narrowing of this tube, which doctors attempted to stretch using a stent. 

Mr Rosenblum said: ‘There was no sense of urgency… they didn’t think this was anything scary.’ 

Doctors removed the stent a few months later – only for Mr Rosenblum’s symptoms to return. His gastroenterologist said, ‘I don’t know what’s happening, but you for sure don’t have cancer.’

‘If you have cancer, I will roll over in my grave.’  

However just two hours later, Mr Rosenblum’s results showed a tumor in a part of the abdomen called the ampulla of Vater – a small opening where the pancreatic and bile ducts join. 

Mr Rosenblum had stage four pancreatic cancer, the third-deadliest form of the disease in the US.

It’s been dubbed a ‘silent killer,’ as patients rarely suffer symptoms before it has spread to other areas of the body, where it is incurable.

In around 80 percent of cases, the disease is diagnosed at late stage, when just the chances of surviving more than five years drop to three percent.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that just over 44 percent of pancreatic cancer patients survive more than five years if the condition is still localized to its original area. It has an average survival rate of 12 percent
Early signs of pancreatic cancer include jaundice, stomach pain, back pain, weight loss, and floating stools

Common symptoms include stomach pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, jaundice, dark urine, light-colored or floating stools, fatigue, and itching.  

NCI estimates there were 64,000 cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed last year, along with more than 50,000 deaths. 

The majority of patients are over age 65, and just 1.9 percent are Mr Rosenblum’s age.

‘The most popular narrative surrounding pancreatic cancer is that not only is it very lethal but also very difficult to diagnose,’ Mr Rosenblum said.

‘The pancreas is deep in the body. The earlier symptoms are very nuanced, can go unnoticed, and can also be misdiagnosed as a multitude of other things.’

‘By the time you’re experiencing symptoms, the cancer has spread outside of the pancreas. I don’t want to say it’s too late, but that’s what conventional wisdom is.’

Mr Rosenblum was set to undergo a Whipple procedure, also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy. This involves removing the head of the pancreas, some of the small intestine, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder, and some surrounding lymph nodes.

EXCLUSIVE: Iowa dad, 39, with stage four pancreatic cancer nearly loses access to life-saving chemo drug amid nationwide shortage 

A father-of-two in Iowa fighting one of the world’s deadliest cancers was nearly left without his life-saving chemotherapy because of the national drug shortage. 

However, his surgeon said that once they opened him up, they saw the cancer had spread to other organs, rendering it inoperable. 

Instead, he was prescribed a six month course of potent concoction of chemotherapy drugs which were ‘awful’ and ‘really, really abrasive’.

Mr Rosenblum suffered debilitating nerve damage that left him unable to even get out of a chair by himself.

Worse, the medication failed to shrink the tumor.  

‘At this point, I was not confident that I would be a special case or a miracle. I thought this was it,’ Mr Rosenblum said.

Doctors discovered that Mr Rosenblum had a mutation of his BRCA2 gene, which is associated wtih several forms of cancer, including breast and pancreatic. This led doctors to believe targeted therapies may help.

The oncologist told him, ‘with treatment, you might have one to three good years left – but that’s it.’  

Mr Rosenblum was put on a combination of the chemo drugs gemcitabine, nab-paclitaxel, and cisplatin (GAP). ‘My quality of life improved dramatically,’ he said. 

‘By the time my first set of scans came around three months in, some of the spots on my liver had started to disappear.’

‘I didn’t lose my hair. I’m six feet tall. I was 215 pounds when I was diagnosed and miraculously maintained a healthy weight so I’m very thankful for that.’

‘At this point, I thought I was still dying sooner rather than later so I was trying to have fun and it certainly made having fun a lot easier.’

By March 2022, doctors could not identify any cancer outside of Mr Rosenblum’s primary tumor. Almost a year to the day, they were able to perform a successful Whipple surgery and remove the majority of the cancer.

Mr Rosenblum will have scans to evaluate the remaining tumor every three months for the next six years. 

However, he acknowledged that while he has beaten the odds his doctors gave him, ‘the chances of me living out those six years are astronomically small’.

‘Pancreatic cancer has a remarkably low five-year survival rate. It’s unlikely that I will see all of that time, at least on paper.’

Mr Rosenblum is still focusing on raising awareness and making sure that others patients don’t automatically view pancreatic cancer as a death sentence.

‘It’s important to remember that you are not a statistic,’ he said. ‘I was diagnosed with something I wasn’t supposed to have at my age. It was very unlikely. It was supposed to kill me and I didn’t die so, in a sense, I beat the odds not once, but twice.’

‘Sometimes things get worse before they get better and it’s not a reason to lose heart.’

‘Have a drink, eat the cheeseburger, and live your life to the extent that you can. That’s how I lived. Take your health seriously but also meet yourself where you are.’

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