Pancreatic cancer patient celebrates nine years survivorship, thanks to specialized surgery care | Ascension

Pancreatic cancer patient celebrates nine years survivorship, thanks to specialized surgery care

When Marianne Crane was told she had pancreatic cancer, she felt there was no hope.

With the help of her cancer team at Ascension Sacred Heart Pensacola, she continues to fight the good fight nine years later.

“I remember that I was really scared when I heard those words,” Crane, 75, recalled. “I didn’t have much hope, but I knew I was in good hands.”

Pancreatic cancer usually shows little or no symptoms until it has advanced and spread. But if caught early enough to be surgically removed, the patient has a chance for a cure.

Her surgical oncologist, Dr. Leo Villegas, Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart, recommended neoadjuvant therapy, a treatment strategy that involves giving chemotherapy and radiation as a first step to shrink the tumor before undergoing a complex surgery, called a Whipple procedure.

To ensure all the cancer was removed, Dr. Villegas took out half of her pancreas, the first part of the small intestine, the gallbladder and part of the bile duct during a six-hour surgery.

Crane said the thought of the cancer returning is always in the back of her mind. ”Can I get it again?” she wonders. She has been followed every three months for the past nine years with no signs of cancer recurrence.

“The years I’ve been given to be alive, I’ve committed to give back to others,” said the Navarre resident. Crane spends her days crocheting blankets and sewing for residents at Covenant Care. She’s also a source of hope for others who receive the same diagnosis.

Dr. Villegas and his colleagues have performed enough Whipple procedures to qualify Ascension Sacred Heart Cancer Center as a High-Volume Center for Pancreas Surgery. This high volume of surgeries means lowered risk of complications and a shorter length of stay in the hospital -- all from the comfort of your hometown.

For more information on Dr. Villegas, visit