When a Bad Luck Diagnosis Becomes a Good Fortune Treatment

In late 2019, Ann Dahm enjoyed a trip to Spain and came home feeling great. Shortly after, she started having stomach problems and went to her doctor. A scan showed a suspicious mass on her pancreas.

Ann lives in Port Townsend, Wash., and was referred to a hospital in Seattle. But when she later learned that some of that hospital’s staff was going on strike, she asked her doctor to refer her elsewhere. That’s how she came to Virginia Mason — and got a life-changing diagnosis: pancreatic cancer.

“I was in a dazed shock and operating pretty much on auto-pilot,” Ann says. “I did not select the hospital or the doctors who would treat me. But that bad luck diagnosis became a good fortune treatment, and I am extremely grateful.”

Ann started seeing Vincent Picozzi, MD, and his team at the Virginia Mason Cancer Institute (VMCI). Dr. Picozzi is world-renowned for his ability to give patients hope in the face of pancreatic cancer, which is one of the deadliest cancers. A year and a half after first seeing Dr. Picozzi, Ann continues to receive treatment and is doing well. She recently made a generous donation to VMCI to honor her care team and support their work.

“What I value most about Dr. Picozzi is his mastery of medicine as an art as much as a science,” she says, explaining how he tweaks and adjusts her treatment to meet her exact needs at every visit. “My treatment is very personalized.”

She says the nursing and administrative staff also provide expert and compassionate care. She enjoys chatting with her nurses about activities she loves, like cooking and travel — and recalls one particularly meaningful conversation she had recently.

“I remember talking with one of the nurses about the importance of following your passion and taking charge of your life,” Ann says. “She told me she had quit good jobs to take time off for adventure. In that moment I realized that, crazy as it may sound, I too am on an adventure. It is dangerous. It is scary. But I am so fortunate to be guided by Dr. Picozzi and his team at Virginia Mason.”

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