Kenny shares the story of his wife, Ishbel, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019.
Blessings to you all. My name is Kenny Mackenzie, the husband of the late Ishbel Mackenzie, who passed away on the 1st February 2020.
We live on the Island of Lewis and our main cancer hospital is in Inverness, where we had to fly back and forth for appointments.
Symptoms and having tests
We started our journey in January 2019. As we had been missionaries in Uganda for the last 16 years we were due to fly out to Uganda on the 15th of January. Ishbel had been feeling discomfort in her stomach and had been taking Stemitil, so she went to the doctor as a precaution to get checked out before we would fly out to Uganda.
The doctor took it upon herself to do an ultrasound scan on the 2nd of January 2019. As we waited for the scan the nurse said that they needed to do a CT scan an hour after the ultrasound scan, all at our local Island hospital.
As we were leaving the hospital that day the nurse did say to Ishbel ‘was she feeling an itch?’ to which Ishbel replied ‘No’ – little did we know at that time what was to come.
Getting her diagnosis and treating her jaundice
Our home phone rang on the 8th January at 9.30am, with the doctor telling Ishbel that she could not travel to Uganda. The scans had shown something on her pancreas and she needed to be in the hospital in Inverness on the 15th of January for an MRI scan.
The MRI scan showed that Ishbel had a tumour on her pancreas and that her bile duct was blocked, and that she was jaundiced and needed a stent. By this time Ishbel was feeling an itch, so the first stent was done on the 8th of February.
Sadly it did not work and the itch became torture. One cannot explain it unless you go through it for yourself. So then a month later, again at the hospital in Inverness, they did another stent which worked and the itch went away.
We thanked the Lord so much for taking the itch away. As Christians we prayed each morning and evening for the lord to give Grace in time of need. Isaiah 43 was especially comforting for Ishbel in these difficult days.
Having chemotherapy treatment
Ishbel needed chemo to shrink the tumour before she could get her Whipple's operation, with the surgeon telling her that he could operate. She had a PICC line inserted for her chemo sessions. She was to have six sessions but became so ill after her second session that she ended up in our local island hospital for 2 weeks with her bilirubin levels off the clock.
Then again after the third session of chemo she ended up in hospital for a week where the oncologist met her in her hospital bed – he told her that she needed to be taken for surgery sooner rather than later.
Having a Whipple’s procedure
On the 17th of June 2019 Ishbel had her Whipple's operation at the hospital in Inverness. It was an 11 hour operation where they took away her pancreas and she ended up a Type 1 diabetic.
The skills of these teams that do the Whipple operation will live with me for evermore. Just amazing. She was in High Dependency Unit (HDU) for a week and then the main ward for another week. Then back home.
Recovering and needing more chemotherapy
It took Ishbel a while to get used to the insulin injections for her diabetes and the Creon to help with her digestion, but the Lord helped her to take one day at a time. She recovered well after the Whipple's surgery and started to eat slowly. She could not put any weight back on but maintained her weight at 58 kilos.
Then the news came that Ishbel needed more chemo to ‘mop up’, as the medical world called it. She needed 6 cycles, it came as a bit of a shock that Ishbel needed 6 more cycles of chemo as she was feeling well. The first 3 chemo cycles went well but after that she struggled with terrible nausea and sweating and pain.
She finished her last chemo on the 10th of December 2019 and we celebrated with a Chinese takeaway.
As the pain became more intolerable the Macmillan nurse asked to do a scan, so on the last day of 2019 (31st of December), Ishbel had a CT scan at our local hospital. As it was holiday time the waiting for the result was not easy, the first result came on the 7th of January 2020 saying that it was inconclusive but that the liver had showed up an inflammation. Then 7 days later the oncologist told me that they were no longer in control and that Ishbel’s liver was severely affected.
Ishbel lasted another 2 weeks and passed on 01.02.2020 into Glory to be with her Saviour The Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity. Blessings to you all Psalm 16.