Nov 22, 2015 10:00 AM

In Memoriam: Chad Wright passed away in February 2019. We honor his memory and are grateful he shared his story.

Chad Wright knows he is fortunate when it comes to his experience with pancreas cancer.

“Everything that had to go right went right,” he says. “I feel I can say I’m cancer free.”

Chad was one of the lucky few whose pancreas cancer was found early. The cancer was located in the head of the pancreas, which often causes a recognizable symptom: jaundice, a condition when the skin becomes yellow.

Chad first knew something was wrong while on a trip to see the Oak Ridge Boys. His stomach had been swollen for a few days, but it hadn’t been painful until the trip. The pain was so bad, he says, that he couldn’t eat or drink anything except water.

The jaundice showed up the day after he came home. He and his wife headed to the ER, where his swollen stomach had to be drained. Chad was immediately referred to Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), where he was diagnosed with pancreas cancer.

Chad’s treatment at HCI included two rounds of chemo and surgery to remove the cancer. The surgery produced the best possible results. Chad recalls his oncologist, Ignacio Garrido-Laguna, MD, delivering the excellent news at a follow-up appointment. “He was almost ecstatically giddy, saying, ‘We got it all! We got it all!’”

Chad’s surgeon, Courtney Scaife, MD, removed all the cancer while leaving him with 70% of his pancreas (most patients undergoing the surgery are left with considerably less).

What’s more, the 23 lymph nodes Dr. Scaife removed had no cancer in them, meaning Chad’s disease had not spread. The surgery had effectively cured him.

Today, says Chad, “life is good.” He continues to run the pool maintenance business he began 35 years ago, goes fishing, and spends time with his wife and two grown children, Nick and Lindsey.

Chad says he realizes how lucky he was and that most pancreas cancer is diagnosed at a much less treatable, much less curable stage. And that is exactly why he wants to share his story.

“I want to show people what can happen if you catch it early,” he says. “We’ve got to get the word out. We need funding for research to find an early marker for this disease. I hope to be a positive influence in that effort.”

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