Treatment Advances and Perfect Partners Give Pancreatic Cancer Patient ‘Gift of Time’

Written by: Saul Wisnia

After losing her first husband of 30 years to cancer, Candace “Candy” Langford felt blessed to find love again. And when she learned six weeks after her June 2018 wedding that she had locally advanced pancreatic cancer, shock blended with sorrow — because she knew her new life partner had also been down that road before. She did not want him to have to go through it again.

Candy’s diagnosis, in fact, was a full-circle moment for them both. Her new husband, Larry, had lost his first wife of 40 years to cancer. In fact, he and Candy learned early in their relationship that their late spouses had been treated by the same doctor, during approximately the same time period. Larry and Candy may even have shared the same waiting room.

Now they are doing so knowingly, as Candy, 67, is treated in the Pancreas and Biliary Tumor Center at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center. Specialists have determined that Candy’s cancer is inoperable, and she initially had to undergo extensive chemotherapy and radiation after her August 2018 diagnosis. Luckily, pancreatic cancer treatment advances at Dana-Farber Brigham — including MRI-guided radiation therapy — resulted in a far less daunting regimen when she developed a cancerous lymph node in late 2022.

This is why, while an incurable form of cancer has been along for the ride nearly their entire marriage, the Langfords still believe that the stars were aligned when they met — and where they wound up.

“In terms of the treatment advances, I feel like I’ve been on the crest of a wave,” says Candy. “If I had to get pancreatic cancer, there is no better time to do so, and no better person to have by my side.”

Candy Langford and her husband, Larry, on their wedding day in June 2018 — two months before her cancer diagnosis.
Candy Langford and her husband, Larry, on their wedding day in June 2018 — two months before her cancer diagnosis.

Coincidences and collaboration

A slightly deeper look makes it clear why the couple feels some cosmic force may be at work.

In 2010, Candy’s late husband, Bill, died of leukemia. He had been cared for by Jeffry S. Wisch, MD, at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, as had Larry’s late wife, Emily, for breast cancer. So when Candy began feeling sick in the weeks after her and Larry’s wedding, and then received the shocking news of her pancreatic cancer diagnosis, “the first person I thought of calling was Dr. Wisch, who had been so wonderful to both our spouses.”

Wisch, it turned out, had since joined Dana-Farber Brigham as senior physician in its Gastrointestinal Cancer Center. He explained to the Langfords that while Candy’s tumor was too advanced to remove surgically, three months of bi-weekly chemotherapy might shrink it enough to do so. She eventually underwent 11 rounds of a four-drug protocol, but the tumor remained inoperable. 

“I was heartbroken,” Candy recalls. “It seemed like there was no other course for me.”

Then Candy’s radiation oncologist at Dana-Farber Brigham, Joseph Mancias, MD, PhD, found another option. In New York City, doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center were seeing promising results with similar patients on a trial using a new form of high-dose radiation therapy. With Wisch continuing to oversee her care, the Langfords traveled to New York — where Candy underwent five weeks of daily radiation treatments as well as oral chemotherapy on the trial.

This combination did its job, bringing Candy’s cancer under control. While the tumor was still there, and still not a candidate for removal, the hope was that the cancer would stay dormant for a while. The Langfords returned to Massachusetts, where Wisch continued monitoring the tumor.

Candy soon regained the strength sapped by chemotherapy and radiation, and she and Larry resumed a vibrant life with their new boat, a new puppy, and a combined five children and three grandkids.

Candy Langford, husband Larry, and their dog, Gracie, enjoy a trip on their boat.
Candy Langford, husband Larry, and their dog, Gracie, enjoy a trip on their boat.

Confidence and comfort

This pattern has continued for four-plus years, with one exception; James Cleary, MD, PhD, took over as Candy’s primary oncologist at Dana-Farber Brigham when Wisch retired in 2021. The Langfords feel the same high level of confidence and comfort with Cleary that they do with Wisch, who remains an important part of the treatment team even in retirement – checking in with Candy frequently and attending tumor board conferences where her case is discussed.

“I truly believe that each of my doctors have listened carefully to me, understood me, and have come up with treatment plans that have allowed me to continue to live a full and beautiful life for as long as possible,” says Candy, who praises the professionalism and warmth of her entire Dana-Farber Brigham team. “They have given me the gift of time.”

And while Candy admits the discovery of tumor growth in her lymph node in 2022 was deflating, she and Larry were excited to learn that in the years since her high-dose radiation treatments in New York, Dana-Farber Brigham had installed an MRI-guided radiation therapy machine capable of safely delivering high-dose therapy for pancreatic cancer and abdominal lymph nodes. In five days of treatment by radiation oncologists Mancias and Jonathan Leeman, MD, Candy gained the radiation benefits that had previously taken her five weeks of Monday-through-Friday sessions.

“I feel extraordinarily grateful to be part of Candy’s story,” says Cleary. “She’s an incredibly courageous woman. Her story has given me tremendous hope that we might be able to have similar success with other patients with pancreatic cancer.”

Larry adds that “it was never just the two of us” going through Candy’s treatments. In addition to their care team, they benefited from energy, prayers, phone calls, and help from their large community of family and friends.

Now, as their journey continues, Candy wants to be there for others receiving a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

“If there is any way my story of living with this for so long can give others hope,” she says, “that would be wonderful.”

2 thoughts on “Treatment Advances and Perfect Partners Give Pancreatic Cancer Patient ‘Gift of Time’”

  1. Such a wonderful story and altogether inspiring to learn all the treatments Candy has had with such great results We wish the Langfords many years together. And for her DFCI team to continue to provide her with the best care.

  2. Congratulations
    I’m a 5yr pancreatic cancer survivor come May 31 Finally after conquering each obstacle due to
    Whipple surgery, Don’t ever give up. New advances are giving us hope

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