Last month I wrote about Willie and Shirleen Mangrum in Columbia, Tennessee and her bout with Pancreatic Cancer discovered in 2020.  This article is the second of my two-part interview with them.  My questions/comments are (in bold) with their responses.

Shirleen –  “When we met with Dr. Idrees on July 22 at Vanderbilt, he explained that based on my test results, it was probable that the mass on my pancreas and spots on my liver were malignant.  A surgical biopsy was recommended and scheduled for July 27.  He explained that they would test the spots immediately…and if cancer, they would insert a ‘port’ in my chest to aid in the treatment.”   

Please tell what happened next. 

Willie – “An appointment with Dr. Rajiv Agarwal confirmed Dr. Idrees’ findings and the different types of treatment. Dr Agarwal asked if we wanted to wait a few weeks and then get started.  Shirleen responded, “No, may we start as soon as possible?” 

“Friday, August 7, 2020, was definitely a different world than we were accustomed to. It was our first day of appointments- and we didn’t have a clue. First, check-in…then the Lab.

“Soon, Dr Agarwal came in, reviewed the lab results with us, described the treatment process and did an exam of Shirleen.  It is a three-drug treatment that takes about six hours; sometimes causing severe nausea and diarrhea. Also, severe energy loss is noted and oh yeah, something called neuropathy. 

“Up to the Infusion Clinic we go. One bag, done. Second bag, done. Now, they hook up a small pump that will be Shirleen’s “friend” for forty-six hours. It very slowly pumps chemo into her body. When done, we disconnect the pump- at home. On Monday, a booster shot is administered. 

“Shirleen and I had a discussion that we will refer back to many times. That discussion involves a Condo Building in Panama City Beach. The shoreline at that Condo is Shirleen’s favorite place on earth. We likened that top floor to our brains- the ability to have more impact on the building below…or the 25th floor.

“Shirleen’s 25th Floor has been through times that could collapse the floors below. Not Shirleen’s top floor- God lives there.

“One thing that has not changed since that first treatment day- we made a pact to start the treatment day laughing and keep right on laughing, until the day is done.”

Shirleen –“During another visit, we were in the waiting area when approached by a man named Mike.  A very outgoing man who was going around talking to people and handing out little chocolate bars.  It didn’t take long before he was telling his story of being diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was in Germany 13 years ago.  At that time, he was told he had six months to live.  He went on to talk about how God is the One in charge.  Mike said that his goal is to see that people know God and place their faith in Him.  He followed up our conversation by sending me several pieces of encouraging notes and scriptures. What a blessing it was to meet him!”

How is this journey further defining your lives?

Shirleen –“This journey is defining me as a Christ follower, Disciple, Encourager, Supporter and Witness.  I want to be an influence on people like Collin, Jackie and Mike.  

“Then God showed me how I can use the things that I have been blessed with to bless others.  I typed out the verses that Collin gave me and put that paper inside the cover of a book called “The 199 Promises of God”.  My sister had sent me a picture of her facemask that says “In this family, no one fights alone”.  I had silicone wristbands made with that saying on them.  I put the verses, the book, four wristbands and a pair of “kicking cancer’s butt” socks in a packet.  Packets have been made for adults and kids and given to the staff at Vanderbilt. 

“My desire is to encourage people to not let a discouraging diagnosis get the best of them.”

Willie- “Pancreatic Cancer is a SILENT KILLER. Silent in that it has very few, if any, symptoms. The symptoms that cause an ultrasound to be done are symptoms caused when it spreads to other organs- most times the liver. Almost never is Pancreatic Cancer found before it spreads. When it spreads, the cancer is incurable.  Make a point to ask your Medical Professional to check your GI Tract and specifically your Pancreas and Liver- by getting an ultrasound done as part of your annual Physical.”

Shirleen – “This is a path that we couldn’t have envisioned being on.  However, it has-been one that has brought us relationships and blessings that we would not have otherwise experienced.  I’m in the hands of The Great Physician!  He’s got great things to accomplish through me and all I can say is, “Here I am, send me!”


By: Ralph E. Vaughn

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