Jefferson University Hospitals

Husband Writes Memoir About Coping With Pancreatic Cancer

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Pancreatic Cancer Memoir-Blake

"In large institutions, you often feel like a number. But we never felt like that with the surgical team"

For Amelia "Emma" and K. Blake Cash, the third time was the charm. When they met, Emma had been twice widowed, Blake twice divorced. For both, their tenth wedding anniversary was a special and important milestone. Sadly, Emma’s health began to decline shortly after they reached it. In the summer of 2009, Emma was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and began 14 months of medical and surgical treatments at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals.

To keep loved ones informed — and to help himself cope — Blake created a website with a blog.

"When it started out, I had an image of, 'We'll look back on this, and it will remind us of what we've been through,'" Blake recalls.

"Also, I didn't like the idea of sending out e-mails to people to let them know what was going on. If people were interested and wanted to follow, they could, but I wouldn't be troubling them."

The site offers a detailed chronicle of Emma's treatment and Blake's thoughts and emotions throughout the process.

In reflecting on his and Emma's experience, Blake describes the compassionate care Emma received from Jefferson's Department of Surgery: "Dr. [Harish] Lavu was very in touch with Emma and who she was as a person. In large institutions, you often feel like a number. But we never felt like that with the surgical team. We felt like we mattered, and they were interested in Emma and what would make her feel better."

Ultimately, Emma succumbed to pancreatic cancer in July 2010 at age 53. While he didn't personally have the disease, Blake still considers himself a survivor. In fact, in August 2011, he published Surviving: How We Loved Through Pancreatic Cancer (available on He hopes the memoir is helpful to others who are coping with pancreatic cancer.

"Emma was still channeling Rocky Balboa, talking about how she was going to beat cancer. She defined survival as completely defeating the disease, I defined survival as weathering the storm with grace. She was so strong, surviving on the force of her will. But her body wasn't cooperating, no matter how hard her spirit fought."

An excerpt from Surviving: How We Loved Through Pancreatic Cancer