John Heald, diagnosed at 46

I was a typical healthy guy in my forties — fairly active and social, and father of two great and busy girls, ages nine and 11. Other than the occasional cold the girls would bring home from school, I was healthy.

I started getting heartburn ALL the time. It would never go away, so I would never go anywhere without a bottle of TUMS and omeprazole (prescribed by my doctor). But it didn’t matter: morning, noon or night, the heartburn was always there.

From working with DetecTogether, I knew how important it was to keep an eye on subtle and persistent health changes. This heartburn definitely fit that definition.

The next health change I noticed was a strange sickness pattern. I would get sick for 3-4 days at a time, get better and then get sick again. During a six-week period I lost 30 pounds without even trying. The weight loss was a huge red flag for me — no matter what, I couldn’t gain weight, which had never been problem for me before.

My primary care doctor continuously told me I was “a healthy 45 year-old male,” and “maybe it was stress?” I knew the heartburn, sickness and weight loss was more. I was persistent in asking questions. Even though the tests said I was normal and healthy, I knew my body and I knew there was something wrong.

“I wasn’t misdiagnosed — it was completely missed. The doctors and tests told me I was fine, but I knew I wasn’t.”

I got sick again with what felt like the flu on steroids. I had trouble holding down food, couldn’t drink my favorite adult beverages and continued to lose weight. I went back to the hospital, told them all my symptoms and went for more tests.

This time they did a CT scan, which revealed a mass in my pancreas. After further investigation, I was diagnosed with a large and rare tumor on my pancreas. I had cancer.

The treatment plan included chemotherapy for a few months, followed by surgery to remove the shrunken tumor. I am happy to say that four months after my diagnosis, I was declared cancer-free.

I wasn’t misdiagnosed — it was completely missed. The doctors and tests told me I was fine, but I knew I wasn’t. I followed what I had learned from 3 Steps Detect and kept pushing to find out what was wrong.

When something doesn’t feel right, it’s because something isn’t right. You know your body better than anyone. Be your own advocate and don’t stop until you have the answers you need, a plan to get you back to ‘normal’ and feeling the way you want to be.


  • heartburn
  • strange sickness pattern (flu-like symptoms)
  • unexplained weight loss