Teresa's Fight Against Cancer

Hello everyone, we would like to thank you for taking the time to read our page. Our number one goal is to hold on to the hope and to do anything and everything to support our Mom (Teresa Harkins) during her battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

On April 24th Mom received a call from her primary doctor telling her they found a tumor on her pancreas and that it was most likely cancerous. She was told to immediately drive to Fargo and check into the ER, they would be waiting for her. Wait…what did she just say, that can’t possibly be true, Mom thought for sure she misunderstood her. After arriving at the ER, Mom was immediately admitted and then all the testing began. They discovered that the tumor was pushing against her gallbladder causing blockage so on April 25th she had a stent placed to open up the blockage and to get a biopsy of the tumor. She was to remain in the hospital for a few days. Mom was scared as hell, she wanted us to take her out of there and run away! She very seldom, perhaps once every 3 to 4 years, even went to the doctor, let alone face a 3 – 4 day hospital stay. I can’t even begin to imagine how she must have felt, but she was never alone for more than a few minutes. We are an extremely close family so to see her scared and hurting and there was nothing we could do about it, broke our hearts. We just wanted to take all the pain away for her. 

April 27th 2017, is the day we received confirmation and the news that nobody ever wants/expects to hear, someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer. You know, “Cancer”, that word that doesn’t slap you in the face when you hear it, until…you hear it in the same sentence with the words “your Mother has” and “yes we are certain”. Then to make this bad dream turn into the worst nightmare ever, add the terms, Pancreatic, Aggressive, Inoperable, Swift, Sneaky, and the most Lethal. 

On the day of Mom’s discharge we had a visit from her Oncology Team at the Roger Marris Cancer Center. It was at this time they informed us the cancer had attached itself to her main artery, so that meant Mom was at a stage 2 and moving closer to a stage 3 quickly. She was given two options; no treatment and 6 months of life, or a schedule of chemotherapy infusions every two weeks to attempt to shrink the tumor and get it to release from the artery and then surgery to remove it. Obviously she chose to fight!

The next few days were a range of emotions for the entire family as we tried to keep hopeful and stay positive for Mom, and each other. 

Unfortunately she did not tolerate the full dose right away due to her bilirubin levels being so high from the obstructive jaundice. However, the stent they placed to open the blockage was working so the chemo dose kept getting stronger as her levels went back to normal. There were a couple scary rushes to the ER early in the morning because Mom was real sick, but she marched on and kept fighting. 

After six grueling infusions, they ran the tests again to see where the progress was at. Much to our surprise, on August 3rd 2017, we got the news that Mom was in fact kicking this cancers ass!!! The cowardly monster had either shrunk or moved enough that it was no longer attached to her artery meaning she could now meet with the surgeon and discuss the next steps. Woo Hoo!! Pretty sure we all went to sleep with a smile stuck on our faces that night. We felt as if our hopes and prayers were being heard, and we would be able to have her with us for many more years. 

August 17th 2017, was the day of her surgery. It was the big day that we had all been praying for, and that Mom had been fighting so hard to get to. She was scared of having a major surgery but she knew that was the one and only cure.  She was taken back into the pre-op and we were given a number to be able to see the status at all times. Her surgeon was going to perform the “Whipple surgery”.  This could take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours.  All we could do was pace and watch the screen. The surgery started and then it stopped. It stopped way too soon, our hearts instantly weighed heavy as we followed the surgeon into the private room. He told us that he found the cancer spread to her liver bringing her up to a stage 4.  They were unable to do the surgery because it would have done more harm than good.

This day that was supposed to be the day we had been praying for, ended up leaving our family devastated. We were told that Mom’s only option is a milder chemo designed to prolong life, and that the average life time at this stage of cancer is 11 months. That doesn't mean a miracle can't happen in the meantime. That's exactly what our family is hoping for! We are fighting harder than ever, and with hope and positive thoughts, anything is possible.

Mom has decided to start the new chemo at Roger Marris, and in the meantime to get more opinions from Mayo and different Cancer Centers. She is not giving up, our Mom is a strong woman, with a strong mind, and we are right there with her.

Mom is in need of a more dependable vehicle with good gas mileage to get to and from her doctor's appointments, and to use so she can get out of the house more. She would love to be able to drive to Florida and see our family down there, but the van she has right now wouldn’t make it. She retired just a few short weeks prior to being diagnosed, so she doesn’t have the funds she needs to maintain all the bills she has, keep food in her fridge and pay for all the items and necessities she didn’t know she would now be in need of. There are so many things that her insurance doesn’t pay for. Although a lot has changed since this journey began in April, her optimism and fierce determination to live HAS NOT! She is an amazing mother/grandmother/and friend with a heart of gold. She has always been there for us whenever we needed her, now we are here to try and help her! Not only will these funds help her get a reliable car, they will also be used to do anything she would like to do during her fight for her life. She loves to travel and even more than that, she likes to eat, so to be able to bring her to all the places she would love to see and try all the cuisine would be amazing and something she or we would never forget.  Mom is also probably the biggest animal lover in the entire world.

Please help us give her some peace of mind financially so she is able to focus on herself while facing the fight of her life.

Our family is very private by nature: and we normally WOULD NOT be asking for help, let alone money. But right now we need your help! Please join us in our fight so we can beat the odds and help to give Mom the financial stability she needs and have one less worry on her mind. We also hope that you keep Teresa in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for all your support in our hope for a cure. Please share our story and donate what you can! EVERYTHING HELPS!


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Vanessa Harstad 
Red Wing, MN
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