Jan 10, 2019 8:00 AM


man sitting in chair
Neal Blair has made a remarkable recovery after his pancreas cancer diagnosis in 2016. His current status is NED–no evidence of disease.

Neal Blair will be 80 in a few weeks. He recently retired from his work as a political consultant. Perhaps that doesn’t seem so remarkable. But in May 2016, Neal was diagnosed with pancreas cancer. Two and a half years later, he is NED—his follow-up tests show no evidence of disease. And that is remarkable.

After his diagnosis at Huntsman Cancer Institute, Neal had radiation treatments through the summer of 2016. In January 2017, Sean Mulvihill, MD, HCI surgeon and professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Utah, operated to remove the tumors from Neal’s pancreas.

Not everything was rosy after the surgery. Neal had a lot of pain, as well as discomfort from tubes to help him breathe. “There were times I felt very down,” he says. “But the most helpful thing to my peace of mind was all the people who told me they were praying for me. Some of them were people I barely knew.”

Within 8 months of his pancreas surgery, Neal was back on track, traveling to Cancun, Mexico, for a week in late summer 2017. He says that’s the best thing that has happened since his diagnosis, yet he didn’t stop there in pursuing a love of taking his family on ocean and river cruises. His latest cruise was to the eastern Caribbean, including Aruba and Barbados.

Usually he travels with his daughter and grandchildren, but Neal’s family connections go much further. “I’m very fond of genealogy,” he says. “I’ve found thousands of ancestors—more than 95 generations.”

Neal’s advice to others who have pancreas cancer is straightforward. “Seek out the best doctors you can find. Then leave the rest in God’s hands. There’s no point in worrying or fretting about it.”

He continues, “We’re never going to see yesterday again. Tomorrow is never going to come. The only time we live in is the present. So find joy in the present!”

Patient Stories Pancreatic Cancer