“Pancreatic Cancer Knocked Me Down BUT it Rebuilt Me”


On her 31st birthday, Allison Kuban was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after a wonderful trip to France with her now-husband. She took the journey from there “one exit at a time,” as one of her doctors suggested she do, always buoyed by support from her family and friends. Now, she finds purpose in advocating for more research funding and speaking out on behalf of fellow survivors. At PanCAN PurpleStride Houston, she shared her story with the crowd.

At 30 years old, with a brand-new promotion to general manager of my hotel and a family, I was just looking for a proposal and a diamond ring from the man I knew I was going to spend the rest of my life with.

As my boyfriend and I were returning from a week in France, I began feeling symptoms such as stomach pains, fatigue, trouble digesting food and losing weight. I thought my body was detoxing after a week of rich and lavish food and wine. Or maybe I was stressed at work with my new promotion. Or maybe I had a food intolerance. Or anxiety. I ended up in the emergency room because the pain was so intense. Seven days later, on my 31st birthday, I was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer called acinar cell carcinoma of the pancreas and would require a harsh chemo regimen.

I only heard chemo and saw my long blonde hair falling out, questioning why my then-boyfriend would want to stay with me, and losing the job that I had worked so hard to achieve. I was finally on top of the world and it completely shattered under me.

I sought a second opinion at UT Southwestern in Dallas after my incredible (now) father-in-law recommended me to meet the team there.

Dr. Beg was not like the initial oncologist I had seen. He was kind, gentle, much more relatable, and even though he told me my cancer was stage IV, I had a comfort from him. There wasn’t much comfort in that meeting except my parents holding me after I completely collapsed in the hallway with tears of fear and the unknown. My dad told me through his tears and shaky voice, you are never alone. And I haven’t been. They say when one person has cancer, the whole family has cancer.

And this was so true for my family and friends. I’ve always been close to my family, but this brought us closer. My first doctor in the hospital told me to take everything one exit at a time. Don’t get ahead of yourself. I think that applies to everything in life but especially to cancer patients. Pancreatic cancer is very difficult to detect and it has often progressed to stage IV when it is found. We have to go one exit at a time. There are going to be bad days. On chemo, I had countless days of being too sick to get out of bed. Throwing up and returning back to a child who is unable to take care of themselves. But there are also moments in this journey that are unforgettable…

To read the remainder of Allison’s speech in its entirety, please visitpancan.org.

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