Carole, 41 when diagnosed with operable adenocarcinoma
I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November 2009 as a result of routine monitoring following a blocked bile duct earlier in the year. It was a massive shock to me and my family as I was asymptomatic and probably felt fitter and healthier than ever before.
I had a Whipple's procedure in December 2009 and received adjuvant chemotherapy from March to August 2010.
I did not read or research much before surgery, partly because of the lack of time but also as some of it can be quite scary so my husband and I decided to just deal with each situation as it happened. Over the past few months I have done more reading and find it comforting to know that what I have gone through and am experiencing is normal and that I can tick these stages and events off.
I was in hospital for over five weeks
I have been through a range of emotions since surgery: I was excited by leaving intensive care and being able to mobilise quickly but felt hampered by drains and liquid feeds; surprised by how little I ate and the lack of weight gain initially; and generally frustration - believing I should be recovering quicker and wanting to do more than I was actually achieving.
I was in hospital for over five weeks and was angry that I could not be at work when there was a lot to do and guilty that others had to take on some of my work; I felt out of touch with what was going on and lost confidence in myself and my ability. On leaving hospital I returned to work as having that normal routine was important to me. A stressful job and my tiredness were not very compatible but luckily I was able to work part-time for the first few weeks, then back to full-time but over seven days so I could do a few hours each day. I was also able to work from home initially, gradually phasing in and building up my return to commuting and the working environment and ensuring this fitted in around chemotherapy and the days when I felt well. My colleagues have been very kind and supportive throughout my whole illness.
I found the chemotherapy and its side effects challenging and draining but realise others have it far worse. I am now six months post chemotherapy and the side effects from this have disappeared leaving me with more energy and the return to normality that I was seeking all along. My wounds have healed well and the scars not too obvious. I still get odd tummy aches and pains but nothing that stops me doing everything that I ever used to do. I think I am more emotional and definitely have trouble remembering things and concentrating but hope these improve with time.
I feel well and back to my old self
I am quite determined and I think that this helps recovery. It is now easier to see the progress that I have made but at times I could not always see or believe it. When you have been through cancer diagnosis and treatment you emerge triumphant yet knackered.
For now there is no physical sign of cancer and I feel well and back to my old self. I hope I have defied the odds and beaten the disease. I will do what I can to help increase awareness, help professionals gain a greater understanding of the condition, improve poor survival rates and the quality of life for sufferers.
Update July 2012
Almost 2 years now since my treatment
It is almost 2 years now since the conclusion of my treatment; it seems to have gone by very quickly. In fact, I have moved on from the paranoia that every episode of D V or stomach ache means that the cancer has returned to smug conceit that everything will be OK now.
My weight is stable. I have not put back all the weight I lost post surgery but think I look well and not too thin and I eat well and healthily. I do still find grazing and eating little and often works best as I get frequent, almost daily, stomach pains and nausea (only vomit occasionally) but think this is perhaps down to eating too much in one sitting hence the grazing. As an active person this also helps keep my energy levels up too. The only foods that really give me problems are fatty, greasy ones and sometimes dairy although since taking creon I have noticed a big improvement. I have been a diagnosed coeliac for almost 20 years.
I exercise regularly at the gym, also swim and run. In fact since finishing chemo, I have run several races for charities and improved on both my distances and speed. I'll never be of the same standard nor ability as Trace but running does keep me physically fit and improves my emotional well being.
I continue to work full time in my job as Managing Partner in a GP surgery. Chemo has
brought on an early menopause but this is not a huge problem, in fact may be a blessing or will be as soon as the hot flushes finish.
Before cancer I was an ordinary 40 year old doing normal things .... now I am a 40 year old doing normal things, just with a few scars and dietary adaptations to show for the intervening period.
Update February 2014
It is now 4 years since my surgery
It is now 4 years since my surgery and I am at that point where you begin to wonder if it really did happen or might have just been a dream. I do, however, have the scars and digestive issues that help bring me back to reality. I am missing a few bits but am managing without them and in fact the inability to put on weight makes me the envy of many. Yet in myself I feel completely back to where I was before this 'inconvenience' occurred. How lucky I am to be able to say that. Bearing this in mind I am setting some new challenges for this year including working with Pancreatic Cancer UK to help raise awareness and increase survival rates so others can be as fortunate as me and undertaking my first triathlon. Unfortunately I have to continue working full time too. My life may have changed but at least I still have one and am going to make the most of it.
"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living" - Nelson Mandela
Update August 2015
I’ve made it to the legendary 5 year milestone
Life is still treating me well! I’ve made it to the legendary 5 year milestone so I'm delighted to be part of an elite club - we just need to get more members so it is not such a lonely place. I completed my Five4Five Fitness Challenges in 2014 which may not be much to many but were important to me as an acknowledgement that I am fit, living life to the full and regaining my self-confidence. (1: I qualified as a Fitness Instructor; 2: Completed the Moonwalk; 3: Ran more than 150km in 5 & 10k races; 4: Completed the Royal Parks Half and 5: Completed a trio of triathlons). I still work too hard and long hours but health-wise fortunately all is good - like everybody I still have good days and bad days but embrace the fact that we are here for a limited time and need to enjoy and make the most of it. I hope that I demonstrate the benefits of early diagnosis but also can boost others to find the strength and courage to fight on.
Update September 2017
8 years since my diagnosis
In December it will be 8 years since my diagnosis - I am still here and proof that early diagnosis saves lives – hence the importance to raise awareness.
I have had a few investigations over the past year for some recurrent pains but nothing significant has resulted which is good news. Nutrition and fatigue seem to be the main ongoing issues but I can do everything I used to do although hope I appreciate it more.
I still have the scars and live with the effects of cancer every day but I try to live life to the fullest and grab every opportunity as I realise how lucky I am to have quality of life and quality of time which is so often not the case for pancreatic cancer patients.
Accept what is, let go of what was and believe in what will be!