Ann, diagnosed in 2009 with operable pancreatic adenocarcinoma
Myself and my partner David retired in January 2008 and looked forward to a happy retirement so it came as a terrible shock when in the following year I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
It all started February 2009. Until then I was very healthy, very active, played golf every week and felt fine. I began to feel a bit sick and my urine was very dark so I thought I best go to see my GP. I got an appointment, and must admit he seemed a little concerned after he examined me. He asked me to do a sample and then he told me I had jaundice . He also took a blood sample. He told me I had some kind of blockage which could be gall stones and he was sending me to the local hospital for an ultrasound the following week.
I had a mass in my pancreas
I must admit at this time I was not at all worried but the following week I began to feel very uneasy and a little scared. On the Monday I had the scan, Tuesday I saw a Consultant and Wednesday I had a CT scan! The next week had to see the Consultant again for the results and he told us that I had a mass in my pancreas and he referred me to another Consultant. He did not actually use the word cancer then but I think we both knew that was what I had.
Over the next week or two I began to feel very poorly and I was taken into hospital for a blood transfusion. By now I was going very yellow, I could not believe it even the top of my head was yellow!! After 2 weeks I was transferred to Luton & Dunstable Hospital and my case was taken over by a wonderful surgeon. It was a very hard 2 weeks for me as they needed to fit a stent in my tummy so that the bile could flow away and my jaundice would go. To do this they had to put a camera down my throat to fit the stent and after 3 failed attempts they had to drain it away via a tube they put into my side and then they were able to fit the stent.
I was allowed to go home for 2 weeks to build myself up for the operation
My biggest fear through all this was that she would be unable to operate but she told me that she would be able to operate, she explained it was a major op called a Whipple's procedure and would be done at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. I was allowed to go home for 2 weeks to build myself up for the operation. By now I had lost over a stone in weight and must admit I looked very thin and pale.
At Luton & Dunstable they allocated me 2 specialist nurses, Heather and Wendy, they were marvellous so kind and supportive, any time I needed help or advice they were there for me. I had my operation on 9th April 2009, I think it took nearly all day. My lovely surgeon rang David and told him it had gone well, she did a marvellous job, he came straight up to the hospital to see me, I was in a high dependency ward with what seemed like tubes coming out everywhere!! David was marvellous through all this always by my side very strong and supportive, we were always positive never looked on the black side always looked to the future.
I got over the operation very well
I got over the operation very well, I was in hospital 13 days, they were so kind and caring they looked after me so well. David picked me up on the 13th April the only problem I had was I still had a drip in my tummy it drained out into a little bottle so I had to be very careful for a while. By now I had lost another stone I was down to 10st 7lbs a year earlier I had been 12st 7 lbs.
It was lovely to be home David was great he made me eat little and often and gradually I built my strength up, also we did little walks round the block and slowly we walked further each week. We did lots of lovely things over the next few weeks to get back to normal. We went away in our little caravan only to Cambridge but it was good, I would go out with David when he played golf and would just sit in the buggy and enjoy being out there again - life was getting better.
I would need chemotherapy
They told me I would need chemotherapy, they had taken away 24 lymph nodes but only 4 showed traces of cancer. The chemo would be over 6 months and I started on the 2nd June, you did every Tuesday for 3 weeks then a week off then you start again. I was given Gemcitabine, the main problem I had was it hit my immune system very hard I had to have special injections to help me. Again David was a hero as he gave me all the injections for the 6 months really amazing.
Chemo is not easy, it makes you very tired and feel sick. It seemed a long 6 months but we got through it, we even managed to get away in our caravan up to our beloved Scotland. Also by now I was back playing golf much to everyone' s surprise. I finished chemo on the 10th November and to celebrate we booked a wonderful cruise we sailed out of Southampton on 25th November for 14 days in the Canary Islands !!
I think it is important to always look forward, to plan things you want to do and to enjoy your life, who knows what is round the corner. I think our biggest fear is will it come back.........
It is now well over 4 years since my operation
Pleased to say it is now well over 4 years since my operation, still going for check-ups and all is good.
I feel very fit and have no problems I do not need to take any medication of any sort, I have to watch what I eat sometimes certain things do not agree with me.
Last year I became a volunteer at our local hospital in Stevenage and I work in the Forster suite which is where I had my chemotherapy, I feel so pleased to work there as I feel I am giving something back and also I know how the poor people feel when they are having the treatment it helps me too. I only do Monday afternoons but I enjoy it.
Life is good we never gave up hope and we fought my illness together.