Aman's experience of his mother Nila having pancreatic adenocarcinoma, she was diagnosed in 2012.

1 March 2013

Nila was a vibrant, loving and strong woman. She was wife to Jagdish and mum to Arti and Aman (me!). At the end of January in 2012, Mum complained of fatigue and back pain. She was 56. She was always healthy and loved to walk. Never drank, never smoked. Her skin was a little yellow but not really that noticeable and she also experienced dark urine. She also had lost weight. After two visits to the GP, we were told that it was ‘some sort’ of infection and we left with antibiotics.

Recieving a diagnosis

One Saturday in March, Mum’s eyes were really yellow so we took her to A&E that same day. We had several tests and scans done. Mum stayed in hospital in that week, with suspected gallstones (if only!)

Mum was eventually diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on 30th March 2012. And me like the mummy’s boy that I am, was so scared for her. It was very hard but I never showed my Mum just how scared. I mean, who am I to make her think about it just to make her upset?

After more scans and inserting a stent in her bile duct to relieve her of her jaundice, mum was considered a candidate for Whipple’s surgery. She underwent the operation on the 21st June 2012. When they opened, her tumour was 8.5cm wide. We were told from a scan 2 months earlier that it was 3.5cm wide. Quite a shock! After her operation, we were told that her tumour wasn’t completely removed because it positioned itself around a portal vein.

Dealing with the prognosis

Her recovery after the unsuccessful Whipple’s surgery took 2 months and in August, we had the dreaded consultation with the oncologist. We already knew that some of the tumour was left behind after her operation and we were hit with some more bad news. Mum’s cancer was not curable and she would start palliative care. She was stage 4.

That’s when I read up on the prognosis without being told by the oncologist. I was gutted. I still tried to keep hope in the extremely rare occasion that a remission occurs in pancreatic cancer. My Mum, the brave woman that she is, herself wanted to know about ‘timescales’ in September, and we told hopefully beyond a year. We were devastated.

Mum started chemotherapy (Clinical trial MK-0752 along with Gemcitabine) at the end of September. This was followed by 4 hospital visits within 6 weeks due to various infections caused by treatment. After another infection at the beginning of November Mum went for a CT scan and we were informed that the cancer had spread to her lungs, liver and stomach lining at a rapid rate. She wasn’t responding to her chemotherapy.

On top of all of this, Mum suffered a stroke at the end of November and the decision was made to stop treatment because she wasn’t fit enough to continue. We were told that she had two months left. We left the hospital with end of life medication and support numbers for the district nurses.

Caring for Mum

My sister and I were both engaged. I was due to get married in February. Realising this was too late if the oncologists were right, we tried to bring it forward. December was out of the question as my fiancée’s parents had a trip to India planned. So we planned it for January. Doing this would take some real planning and that, in turn, meant less time with my dying mother. And that’s all I wanted to do. I decided not to get married, probably one of my biggest regrets.

Work was no longer a priority for my Dad, sister and me. We wanted to spend Mum’s last months with her. We cared for her at home. She had lost a lot of weight by now and was eating little amounts. I cut her nails one morning and remembered how my Mum used to cut my nails when I was small.

Things deteriorated and communication became difficult after her stroke. We still managed to understand her. During the last 10 days doing small tasks like walking up the stairs left Mum out of breath. During the last few days getting in an upright position was a struggle. This was due to her having ascites; a fluid build-up as a direct result of the cancer secondaries which was pushing up against her lungs. She spent the last 10 days of her life in her own bed before eventually passing on the 27th of January 2013. The woman that cared for me, gave her all to my family, extended family and her many friends went to rest in peace.

There’s not an hour that goes by without us thinking about her and we will always remember 27th January 2013 like it was yesterday.

March 2013