Keeping the Courage

LAFE, AR  (KAIT)  --  Lafe Mayor Wayne Tritch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer three weeks before the 2008 election, but he's keeping his promise to serve the people of his community. On October 14, doctors told Tritch cancer cells were inside his pancreas and liver. They gave him roughly a year to live.

"Doctors give me anywhere from 10 months or so. One doctor said maybe a year to a year and a half. This is a fast growing cancer. I can tell week by week it's really progressing," said Tritch.

It all started in April when Tritch experienced severe abdominal pain. The pain would show up after he'd eat, but it wasn't that way all the time. "You couldn't tell when it was going to do it," said Tritch.

"I went to a doctor and they treated me for an ulcer for a couple months and it kept getting worse and worse. Then I ended up in St. Bernard's hospital, and when I was in St. Bernard's, they found out that it possibly was cancer. They ran a bunch of tests on it, and then October 14th, they confirmed that it was pancreatic cancer."

The cancer quickly spread to his gall bladder and other vital organs. His liver has 17 spots on it.

Tritch never thought he would get cancer at such a young age. "I consider myself very healthy. I ran five miles within the last few years. I exercise. I don't smoke. I thought I was real healthy. I consider myself a very healthy person for my age. I'm 54 years old and for my 50th birthday I ran five miles," said Tritch.

"Sometimes you'll sit around thinking about it and it breaks your heart. Thinking about it and about your family. I'm more concerned about my family, kids, grandkids and wife than about myself."

Tritch takes pain medication every four hours. His medication is doubled every week to 10 days, to help him cope with the pain. Pain from pancreatic cancer is one of the most painful of all cancers.

As for his job, Tritch said if he could make it six months as mayor before not being able to do the work, then the city council will be allowed to appoint a new mayor. If he doesn't make it six months, the city will hold a special election.

Tritch tells Region 8 News his job is the furthest thing from his mind.

"Cancer is a scary word for anybody, you know. It's something you really don't want to hear. It's part of life though."

Doctors gave Tritch the option of chemotherapy, but says the treatment would only extend his life a couple days. Tritch chose not to in order to have a better quality of life until then.

"The hardest thing is knowing you have cancer. That's just enough right there. You don't know what your future is, what your family's future is. Just take one day at a time. We'll take it one day at a time and we're making the best of it."

"I'd like to thank the citizens of Lafe. The community for their support, the prayers, I've had a lot of people sent me cards. I want to thank everybody."

According to the American Cancer Society, one in 76 people will develop pancreatic cancer and 92% will die each year.

Research is still trying to determine the causes of pancreatic cancer, but doctors believe 14 risk factors can help identify someone with the disease. To see the risk factors, click here.