Steve, 55, diagnosed in 2013 with inoperable pancreatic adenocarcinoma
In April 2013 I decided that I had been a fat boy for too long. Not unfit; a regular walker; but occasionally struggling to tie the odd shoe lace. So I went on a diet, losing approximately 1 pound per week.
Things went well until July 2013 when I really went off food and started to lose weight dramatically. I thought that I had re-educated my attitude and just didn't fancy pies, chips, cider etc anymore
By the end of August I was down to 11st 6 (From 14st 6) feeling awful, low appetite, terrible back ache and very yellow.
We all now know that these are the classic signs and I was diagnosed as having inoperable pancreatic cancer that had caused a gall bladder blockage. I didn't even know what the pancreas was and was devastated by the estimated life span of 3 to 20 months, given to me on 4thSeptember 2013.
I remember thinking at the time - cancer is for old people, I am only 54.
A stent was fitted - no great problem, the process was uncomfortable but easy to cope with. However, the wind following the procedure was probably the worst pain I have suffered during the illness. But at least all the back pain disappeared.
Intravenous chemo started after that. What a surprisingly cheerful place the chemo ward is in Crewe! Everyone having a laugh and swapping stories. 3 weeks on (once a week) one week off for 12 weeks.
Was it debilitating?
Sort of (1) I had chemo on Wednesday and would take Thursday off work
Sort of (2) My wife would accompany me and we would play scrabble during the treatment. It wound her up that I could still spank her at scrabble whilst on a chemo drip!
Sort of (3) A bit like a cross between a hangover, flu and jet lag.
Sort of (4) I suffered high temperatures an about 4 occasions where I had to be admitted to hospital and be put on a drip. However, I was never in hospital for more than 4/5 hours per visit.
Sort of (5) A hypnotherapist helped me get over the worst of my needle misgivings.
Whilst on chemo my wife decided that she actually preferred the fat boy, so started to prepare regular, delicious meals for me. It is so much to her eternal credit that in spite of the number of times I pushed them aside, she still came back with another tasty treat. Sometimes it was like living on the set of Hansel and Gretel with her asking "are you fat yet little boy?" and my replying "nearly, but not quite".
Current weight (June 2014) is back to 14st 6.
Following the diagnosis I became almost incapable of thinking in the long term; yet previously, planning and achieving had been an integral part of my being.
I decided that I needed some focus. My brother lives in Beijing and in previous years we have met up in Hong Kong for the rugby sevens. So why should 2014 be any different?
2014 wasn't any different aside from some additional careful planning and higher than usual, unwarranted nagging from my wife. The sevens became a focal point for me in the dark days following diagnosis - I regained my ability to think long term. The tournament turned out to be everything that I had hoped for, and more. I didn't even care about England being beaten by the All Blacks in the final. I have probably been to the sevens 10 or more times; but this time had the sweetest taste to it.
June 2014 and I have just started 5 weeks of combined radiotherapy and chemotherapy. But, in the middle of that I am attending a weekend motorbike rally, under canvas.
Apart from the great support from the medical teams, family and friends, there are a number of things that have helped me cope and live with pancreatic cancer:
- Regaining my ability to long term plan has given me focus. Objectives don't have to be big achievements, just beating yesterday's calorie intake is a start.
- Hating to lose - I just have to pick my battles a little more carefully nowadays.
- Invictus - a poem that still inspires me on a daily basis
- One for the mathematicians - a knowledge that the right tail of a Normal Distribution never touches the right axis - and someone has to be that man.
Anybody fancy a biker weekend under canvas?