A Mother’s Story
This Mother’s Day we are excited to share the story of mother, wife, entrepreneur and pancreatic cancer survivor Nayana Ferguson.
While searching for companies to partner with for the Nikki Mitchell Foundation’s signature fundraising event, we came across 15-year pancreatic cancer survivor Nayana Ferguson. Nayana, along with her husband Don, own Anteel Tequila. Long before becoming the first black woman to own a tequila company, Nayana faced one of the most difficult challenges of her life, pancreatic cancer. Read our interview with Nayana below.
On October 31, 2005, while driving to work, my teeth started chattering and I was very cold. When I got to work and the ambulance was called, the paramedics advised me that my body temperature was 106 degrees, so my body was burning up, but I felt very cold. Once I got to the hospital, all types of tests were taken, and I was advised that there was a mass on my pancreas and that I would need to be admitted. A few days later, I was advised that I would need to have a whipple surgery in order to remove the mass on the head of my pancreas.
My treatment was a very interesting experience. After the whipple surgery, I was in the ICU for about three days, then I was transferred to a regular room. I initially had a morphine drip, but I decided after one day that I did not want to have morphine for too long. I had three tubes inserted in my stomach and rib area and a catheter. In the ensuing days, I had a goal in my mind to make sure that I got out of the hospital within two weeks. Slowly, but surely my body started waking up and I was actually discharged from the hospital, two weeks from the date of my surgery. When I was released, I could not walk and still had the three tubes inserted in my stomach and ribs, but I was out! A couple of days later, I went back to the hospital to have the tubes removed. Due to my tumor being 100% removed, I did not require chemotherapy, however, I was on nine different medications. For the first 3 years after my surgery, I went to an oncologist every 6 months to make sure that I did not have any other growths, from year 4-5, I went to the oncologist yearly for these checkups.
My diagnosis and treatment affected me as a Mom very much. My only daughter at the time was only eight years old when I went into the hospital and had my surgery. I was very concerned about how she was feeling and how she would get through this traumatic experience. I tried to make sure that she was taken care of and that she was aware that I would be okay. After I got out of the hospital, I spoke with her extensively about how she felt, and I had to continue to ensure her that I was okay and that I was not going to pass away.
Life After Treatment
It took my body about three years to fully recover from my whipple surgery and at the end of that three years, I got pregnant and had my youngest daughter. Although I ate pretty healthy before my pancreatic cancer diagnosis, after having the whipple surgery, I had to make sure that I ate healthy by watching my sugar intake (even natural sugar) and being aware how my body reacted to certain foods. Besides the healthy eating, there is nothing else that I did before having pancreatic cancer that I cannot do now.
My advice for anyone going through treatment, caring for a loved one or having lost someone to pancreatic would be for them to know that there is help and resources out there to give them support. I would recommend that they reach out to a foundation that would give them those options and resources for support. I also truly believe that if anyone needs it and if possible, for them to get in touch with the stories of pancreatic cancer survivors. I truly believe listening to these stories provides hope.