Patient StoriesMarch 5 2024

Patient Story - Cristian Contescu

Cristian who – more than four years after his surgery and treatment for pancreatic cancer – continues to thank the Cancer Institute at UT Medical Center every day. Cristian, who retired from his job as a Distinguished Scientist at a National Laboratory, is originally from Romania but has been living in the United States since 1990.

In the summer of 2019, while still working fulltime, Cristian’s workload was so busy that he didn’t notice the first signs that something might be wrong. When his son told him that his face was yellow, he wanted to ignore it and blame it on being tired, but his wife insisted that he see their primary care physician. After concerns with the results of an MRI, Cristian was referred a few days later to a gastroenterologist, who confirmed that it was cancer. Fortunately, it was operable and the position of the cancer on the pancreas gave the surgeons a reason to be optimistic, so he was scheduled for surgery with Dr. James McLoughlin the following week. Acting that fast was essential for limiting the spreading.

“I was concerned, but I knew I needed to follow instructions and put my faith in the years of experience and knowledge of the doctors at UT Medical Center,” he said.

After surgery, Cristian stayed at the medical center for almost four weeks where he said the doctors and nurses did everything possible to take good care of him. “What impressed me most was the collaboration among departments - from oncology and chemotherapy to radiology and physical therapy - I had a whole team,” he said. 

Once he was allowed to go home, Cristian received radiation treatments almost daily for two months. Then, chemotherapy treatments began in early 2020 – every three weeks for a total of six sessions. That period of treatment was difficult, as he lost his hair and 30 pounds. His treatment was ongoing during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was installed there in a chair for 4-5 hours at a time,” he said. “Even though we were all masked, I felt the support of everybody. I could see it in their eyes – their sympathy, encouragement, and continuous support for me.” He added that he also received unlimited support from family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors.

Today, Cristian continues to live cancer-free and enjoys taking cruises with his wife, Adriana, who was a constant source of strength and solace during his cancer journey. After retirement, he still continues consulting activity in his own science field. For anyone else facing a similar diagnosis, he has three pieces of advice: “Be humble. Keep optimistic. Trust the capacity, knowledge, and progress of science and the medical field.”