An Activist and Survivor Shares Her Story

Lisa Eidelberg has been integral in raising funds for Nikki Mitchell Foundation’s “Country Boots Cancer” show, which is donating 100% of the proceeds to the future Pancreatic Cancer Precision Medicine Program at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The pancreatic cancer activist and survivor shares her story: 

Lisa and her sons

“Peace Out Johns Hopkins”

Rhonda Miles, Jamey Johnson, Lisa Eidelberg









I am a very lucky four-year pancreatic cancer survivor!!

This journey began on Saturday June 7, 2014 when I woke up, looked in the mirror and thought, “Mmm, I look a little yellow!”  A friend had stopped by, looked at me and confirmed what I didn’t want to believe; I was indeed yellow!  My husband Marc and I went to the emergency room of a local hospital where I was told I would simply need my gall bladder out, even as I was becoming increasingly yellow! Fortunately, the doctors in my family had me moved to another hospital where I would have an ERCP the next day.  Coming out of anesthesia, Marc had the most difficult task of delivering the bad news……I had pancreatic cancer.  We were all shocked!  I was 54 at the time, healthy, had no family history of it, was active and had two 19-year-old sons who still needed me!  In the four months prior to diagnosis, I had an endoscopy, colonoscopy, two ultrasounds and blood work (just six weeks before diagnosis) which were all normal!

Luckily for me, I got an appointment with Dr. Wolfgang and team at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which I was told was the premiere pancreatic cancer team. Boy is that true!  On Saturday June 14, 2014, I had a successful Whipple surgery.  Recovery was so much more pleasant because of the caring staff at JHH!  Aftercare with this surgery is almost as important as the surgery itself!   Following recovery, I had 10 rounds of Folfirinox and radiation at Overlook Hospital in Summit, NJ where again, I was fortunate to receive compassionate, quality care.

At a post-surgical visit with Dr. Wolfgang and Lindsey Manos, they urged me to reach out to the Nikki Mitchell Foundation founder Rhonda Miles.  Somehow, they got a vibe that I resembled Nikki in spirit and attitude, although we were completely different people in the way we lived our lives.  My attitude was always positive, but I made it my business NOT to read the sad stories of this dreaded disease, so why would I reach out to Rhonda? Nikki had sadly and bravely lost her battle with this demon.  However, I’m so glad I did!  It’s enlightened me to the fact that this disease does not discriminate.  There is no “stereotypical” person who is affected by this many time fatal disease.  It’s brought about a renewed outlook on life and others.  Just as pancreatic cancer doesn’t judge, I don’t either.

It is my privilege to work with both the Nikki Mitchell Foundation and Johns Hopkins Hospital to raise funds for the new Pancreatic Cancer Precision Medicine program which will enhance the patient’s experience.  This will be THE place, for competent, caring, compassionate and cohesive treatment for those afflicted by this ugly disease!

I personally look forward to celebrating many more survival anniversaries but look forward to having a lot more company in the future!!

Donations for this event can be made HERE and select the campaign “Country Boots Cancer.”

How Do We Make a Difference?

We love the fact Nikki Mitchell Foundation has opportunities to plan amazing concerts with big-time talent! You might think we spend all our time producing concerts and an annual golf tournament, right? As our events bring in funds and our revenue grows, so do our expenses. More money coming in means more going out, so more funds mean we are able to increase patient assistance and fund promising research.

On the flip side, sometimes days can be rough in the office.

This week, we took a pancreatic cancer patient client off of our active financial aid roster and moved them to our “closed file.” You can guess what that means…she wasn’t cured, and she fought her disease until she couldn’t fight anymore. This woman was someone we connected with on a personal level, Rhonda spoke with her on the phone and listened to her stories, fears, needs and hopes. She figured out her financial needs and sent her gas and grocery cards, paid co-pays and financed a second opinion at UCLA through our Bridge of Wings program. Rhonda became her cheerleader and supporter.

We then called the first name on our waiting list. The family requested assistance with their mortgage payment. The patient was unable to talk, and his wife was at work, so their 17-year-old son took charge and was organized, thankful, and on top of their needs.

After the first phone call, the realization hit…this teenager should be hanging with his friends, playing sports or just acting like a 17-year-old. Instead, five minutes after hanging up, he emailed us their mortgage information, followed up with a phone call, thanked us and told us to have a blessed day. This kid is having to grow up too fast and take care of things most kids never even think about, like how can house payments be made or what would happen if they lose their home as his dad is suffering from pancreatic cancer.

We keep 40 clients on the active list and 40 times a month, we ask them: what do you need, what can we do to help? As we help our patients and plan our events, we constantly think – what do we do if we run out of funds? What if this event doesn’t bring in enough to support the Bridge of Wings program? The foundation doesn’t just help patients one time and then leave them to figure out finances as their disease worsens. We help these patients every month, as long as they are in need. Forty patients a month is all we are able to financially handle at this time and all we are able to manage with our small office.

How do we do it? How do we make a difference? We do it through YOU, and through our events sponsors, our faithful donors, event attendees and our online auctions. Our mission and goal is bigger than these events, bigger than the foundation, bigger than each individual. It’s about making a difference for this 17-year-old kid who sent his parent’s mortgage information. It’s about helping patients who are fighting this horrific disease. It’s about awareness and finding a cure.

Let’s make the difference in someone’s pancreatic cancer battle and let’s honor Nikki Mitchell while we do this.

Please consider donating today.

Outcomes After Minimally-Invasive Versus Open Pancreatoduodenectomy




The following summary comes from the Annals of Surgery, a leading source of peer-reviewed surgical literature. Original article can be found here.

Outcomes after minimally-invasive versus open pancreatoduodenectomy.

Klompmaker, S., van Hilst, J., Wellner, U.F. et al.

Annals of Surgery, June 2018

The Dutch Pancreatic Cancer Group is a coalition of medical centers in the Netherlands that collaborate and share data to improve the overall quality of care of pancreatic disease. In 2018, this group lead a collaboration of 14 experienced medical centers in Europe to determine the outcomes in patients undergoing Whipple operations with either an open approach or a minimally invasive approach (i.e. laparoscopic or robotic). In this study, patients were matched by similarity to eliminate selection bias. A total of 1,458 patients were included (729 open and 729 minimally invasive).

This study found that there were no differences in the following:
– major postoperative complications
– postoperative mortality
– need for post-operative drain placements
– need for re-operations
– length of hospital stay

Significant differences were found in:
Postoperative pancreatic fistula (leaking fluid from the pancreas where it is reconnected to the small intestine). The authors suggest this may be due to the learning curve associated with this part of the operation. This complication was higher in the minimally invasive group, but no differences were found between laparoscopic vs. robotic.

Additionally, laparoscopic approaches were more likely to be converted to an open procedure as compared to robotic approaches.

In summary, minimally invasive approaches are appropriate choices for the right patients when performed at experienced medical centers. Proper patient selection is the product of multiple factors and should be discussed between the patient and their medical team. As more centers gain experience with minimally invasive surgery, these procedures will most likely become safer and available at more medical centers.

Summary written by Michael Wright

Department of Surgery, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.