Grateful for advances in treatment, pancreatic cancer patient finds joy every day

When Candace Langford married her second husband, Larry, eight years after losing her first husband to cancer, she was looking forward to once again living life to the fullest. However, just six weeks later, they received some devastating news: Candace had pancreatic cancer.

Candace immediately sought out her late husband’s oncologist, Jeffrey Wisch, MD—who, coincidentally, had also provided care for Larry’s late wife. Wisch and Candace’s surgeon, Thomas Clancy, MD, FACS, determined that her tumor was inoperable.

“It was a devastating diagnosis, especially when they said I couldn’t be operated on,” Candace says.

Under Wisch’s care, Candace went through 11 rounds of chemotherapy, followed by five weeks of high-dose radiation. Candace felt good throughout treatment, and continued to stay healthy for four years. 

Following Wisch’s retirement in 2021, James Cleary, MD, PhD, took over Candace’s care and monitored her closely. This past spring, Cleary found a cancerous lymph node, which was treated with further radiation. This time, with support from radiation oncologist Joseph Mancias, MD, PhD, Candace completed the same dosage of radiation in just one week—compared to five weeks four years prior—thanks to newly advanced MRI-guided radiation therapy.

“It was incredible to see the advances in pancreatic cancer treatment in just four years,” she says. “I’m still here, without surgery, and without having had anymore chemo. They are coming up with new ways to treat this without surgery, and it’s working. I feel like I’m on the crest of a wave—I want others who are struggling with the diagnosis to have hope.”

Having both already faced the loss of loved ones to cancer, Candace and Larry decided early on they would not let the disease stand in their way of living a full life together. After Candace’s first treatment, they decided to get a boat and a puppy, whom they adore. Since the pandemic waned, they have traveled, spent time with family and friends, and celebrated Candace’s son’s marriage. She is even learning to paint, something she has always wanted to do.

“Here I am, just really having an amazing, full, beautiful life thanks to everyone at Dana-Farber,” says Candace. “I’ve experienced Dana-Farber on a lot of levels now, as a spouse of a patient, as a patient. Just being there is, to me, very powerful. It brings back a lot of memories, some scary and some sad. But to me, right now, it’s a haven.”

Candace continues to look forward to staying healthy as long as possible so she can be with her family and watch her children and grandchildren grow up.

“We’re just enjoying life very much,” she says. “We’re squeezing joy out of every day.”

To learn more about advances in pancreatic cancer, watch a recording of Behind the Breakthroughs – From Bench to Bedside: Translating Science into New Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer. This presentation features a conversation with researchers from Dana-Farber’s Hale Family Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research.