Bob Gibson's positive attitude could make the difference in fighting his toughest opponent yet

If attitude counts for anything, the 83-year-old Gibson will pick up another victory in his Hall of Fame career 

Fred Bodimer
July 19, 2019 - 2:55 am

May 19, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals hall of famer Bob Gibson throws out a first pitch prior to a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — St. Louis Cardinals legend Bob Gibson has begun his fight against pancreatic cancer -- undergoing his first chemotherapy treatment earlier this week in Omaha. 
 
If attitude counts for anything, the 83-year-old Gibson will pick up another victory in his Hall of Fame career.  

"He's up for the fight, he's up for the challenge," said Dick Zitzmann, Gibson's longtime agent.   "He's going to battle it all the way through."

Related: Cardinals great Bob Gibson fighting pancreatic cancer

"Fifty thousand people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year," said SLU Care's Dr. Jason Taylor, director of gastroenterology at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.  "And although there are many more cancers, like breast, prostate, lung or colon cancer, pancreatic cancer actually represents the fourth leading cause of death in both men and women."

Pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates. 
 
"The survival rate is unfortunately not great," Dr. Taylor tells KMOX.  "The survival rate at one year is about 24-percent.  The five year survival rate is about six percent."

"But I don't want the mortality statistics -- or your chances of beating this disease -- to make patients give up," said Dr. Taylor. 
"We have had cases here at Saint Louis University Hospital and other centers around the country where pancreatic cancer patients get treated with chemotherapy and or surgery and they survive many years.  Even some of my patients who I still follow nine year later are cancer free."
 
One of the big problems with pancreatic cancer is it is hard to diagnose in its early stages.

"If you have pancreatitis, you will feel pain with inflammation of the organ," said Dr. Taylor.  "But with pancreatic cancer, most people that present don't actually know they have the signs because they are asymptomatic.  In fact, the most early presenting symptom people have is jaundice -- which is discoloration of your skin." 
 
So what are the risk factors?

"Smoking really is the smoking gun," said Taylor. "Smoking has a very high risk for causing pancreatic cancer.  Another risk factor is diabetes.  We know that diabetes plays a role in the development of cancer but we don't know the exact mechanism.  We also know that obesity -- people with a BMI over 30 -- and other genetic syndromes do increase your risk of pancreatic cancer."   

According to Taylor, there are a couple of ways to reduce your risk, besides not smoking.  

"We think that there may be some credence to increased physical activity and eating a diet higher in fruits and vegetables and lower in meats. That's one of those modifiable factors that could reduce your risk."

Back to Bob Gibson -- with Dr. Taylor saying a positive attitude is a big bat to swing against pancreatic cancer. 
 
"Maintaining hope, looking for centers of excellence to really fight the disease and having a positive attitude really does make a huge difference."​

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