Chic, 59, when diagnosed with a pancreatic cancer tumour in the bile duct and shoulder of the pancreas
I was diagnosed in March 2013. I hadn’t recognised any “symptoms” previously. I was driving to work and felt quite unwell - dizzy and a bit detached. I arrived at work and didn’t feel I was getting any better.
I live in Oxford but work in Wimbledon, south London and as such our human resources advised me that I should attend the St. Georges hospital in Tooting. I visited via the A & E dept. where I was triaged by a nurse who recognised that my temperature was very high so she took a blood test and advised me to take a seat in the waiting room. After about fifteen minutes a doctor asked me to accompany him for further tests.
Tests and scans
I did so and he asked me how much alcohol I drank. I informed him that I had not had a drink for about 5 years and quite frankly he didn’t believe me. My blood test result showed that my liver function was incredibly high and if I didn’t drink then we explored whether I had been on holiday, the reason for that was it might have been a tropical disease. Other areas were also explored to eliminate some other possibilities. I then had to give a urine sample.
After a short while the doctor left to discuss my symptoms with his colleagues and, much to my surprise, he returned and informed me that he was putting me in a ward until they got to the bottom of what was causing the symptoms.
I was admitted and spent the next few days undergoing different scans including an ultrasound which showed something but was not conclusive. I then had an MRI scan and a CT scan which showed that I had a tumour.
I was referred to an outpatient’s clinic in the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. They quickly put me through a series of tests and then I was referred to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford where I met with a consultant who explained in great detail what my options and the associated risks were.
I opted for a procedure known as the whipples procedure which although very invasive in my mind was the best option. This, due to the complexity of the operation, took a couple of weeks to arrange.
I had the operation which I am happy to say was a success and have recovered well. My bile duct was removed and part of my pancreas so I am now dependant on a pancreatic enzyme called creon, which helps digest my food. The removal of part of my pancreas also put me on the borderline diabetic scale which is a medical issue. The most difficult part of the recovery process is building your muscle mass back up and I have found this extremely difficult but have received support from the dietitian.
Update August 2017
Almost three years after my operation
I am still suffering from fatigue, almost three years after my operation. I feel completely drained at about 11am every day and it’s not like tiredness. It is far more draining and I have to have a rest normally in my work's first aid room every day. If I am at home I usually just jump in to my day room and have an hour in there.
I am fortunate that my work colleagues understand and support me through the day as one power-nap sometimes sorts me out but quite often it is not enough and I have to return to the first aid room several times.
I know this is stating the obvious but fatigue is far worse than tiredness. It really wipes you out and unless you have access to a quiet place where you can rest, I think it would be debilitating.
I am still very underweight, I am getting on ok with the creon. I am also on metaformin to combat the diabetes. I did have a bit of trouble with these but went back to the doctor who advised that I take them in a different format - two with breakfast and two with my evening meal. This seems to have worked and I am more comfortable with the new way of taking these.