My Knight Cancer Story: Douglas Harrison

Douglas HarrisonI had been sick for six months and hospitalized four times before I ended up in the OHSU emergency room in June of 2013.  My upper arm looked unnaturally yellow, which was alarming, so I went to the emergency room in search of answers.

A biopsy revealed that I had pancreatic cancer. Shortly after the diagnosis was made, I had a 15-hour Whipple procedure, which involves removing the head—and sometimes the body—of the pancreas, to remove the tumor. Brett Sheppard, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s pancreatic cancer program, guided me through my decisions and performed the surgery. I spent 15 days in the hospital, and I couldn’t be more thankful to Dr. Sheppard—and his team—for supporting me through treatment and my recovery from surgery.

In the wake of the surgery, I volunteered to join the Oregon Pancreas Tumor Registry, which relies on data and tissue samples to help researchers better understand and fight pancreatic cancer. The registry is part of the Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care, which brings together surgeons, scientists, oncologists and other health care providers to fight a variety of pancreatic diseases.

I also took part in a clinical trial, as well. As part of the trial, I was injected with pancreatic cells in an effort to train my immune system to attack the cancerous pancreatic cells in my body.

After my tumor was removed, I had radiation therapy. While I’m not out of the woods yet, I feel better and am receiving regular chemotherapy today.

Over the past year, I’ve been inspired by Dr. Sheppard and the great work happening at OHSU and the Knight Cancer Institute. Dr. Sheppard’s tenacity and his team’s kindness inspired me to get involved and show my support.

Early on, I knew that I wanted to prove that one person can make a difference in the larger world. Having grown up in North Portland, I decided to stage a fundraising walk across the St. Johns Bridge in April 2014. I planned on giving the money we raised to the Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care, which will also count toward the $1 billion Knight Cancer Challenge.

I walked with about 70 friends, some of whom I’d known since elementary school, as well as Dr. Sheppard. We lucked out with the weather, missing the rain and walking under overcast skies.

In all, the walk raised about $2,370. I couldn’t have been happier to increase awareness of the need for more pancreatic disease research and support. It was incredible to share the experience with friends and family. Thanks to the inspiring work of Dr. Sheppard and his dedicated team, I was able to give back to an outstanding institution and prove that one person can indeed make a difference.