Amanda was 39 when she was diagnosed with operable adenocarcinoma in the tail of her pancreas.
I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2009, then aged 39. Up until then, I was fit and healthy, didn’t smoke, drank only socially and had a healthy diet-mostly vegetarian and with lots of organic produce. My symptoms started in September 2009 with a slight loss in appetite, a feeling of ‘fullness’ after eating and some weight loss. A trip to the doctors saw a prescription for Gaviscon and a possible diagnosis of heartburn (dyspepsia)!
Finally we knew we were dealing with a mass on my pancreas
Two weeks later with appetite and weight decreasing even more, I was told an endoscopy would be a good idea. Unfortunately, and through no fault of their own, the waiting for NHS procedure was 4-6 weeks, but my husband had private medical cover and I was seen privately within the week! Good news – nothing unusual showed up!
However, I had mentioned to the consultant that I was now experiencing a slight dull ache in my left side and into my lower back so he booked me in for an ultrasound scan. The radiographer spent a long time, in silence, examining me and it was then, that I was sure this was something more serious. My appetite by now was almost zero, weight had plummeted to below 8 stone (I am a 5ft 9′ female) and the pain was becoming excruciating. A CT scan was next on my list of investigations, followed by an MRI scan and finally we knew we were dealing with a mass on my pancreas.
The hardest thing to do was to sit my boys down-aged just 12 and 9 and tell them that it might be cancer and that I didn’t know if I would die.
I was operated on, on December 3rd 2009
Luckily, we had caught this relatively early; the pain I was experiencing was due primarily to an enlarged spleen and not directly due to the tumour. I waited anxiously for the call from the consultant who confirmed the tumour was resectable and I was operated on, on December 3rd 2009 – a Distal Pancreatectomy, Splenectomy and partial Adrenalectomy – and I was out of hospital within 2 weeks.
The histology report on December 16th revealed that it was a moderate to poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma of the pancreas tail, approximately 5cm by 5cm, and I was now facing the New Year with recovery and chemotherapy. Thankfully, the spleen had enlarged so much that this had presented me with the pain which had eventually lead to an earlier diagnosis and presentation.
I am still “disease free” and will continue to have regular scans
I endured 6 months of chemotherapy (Gemcitabine) – 3 weeks on and one week off. Although some people might tolerate this well, I suffered with incredible sickness and dreadful fatigue throughout-sometimes sleeping for full days and not forgetting thinning hair, mouth ulcers, bleeding gums and aching joints! This treatment finished at the end of June 2010.
Two weeks following the end of chemotherapy, I participated in the Race for Life and ensure I maintain a full and busy life; including plans to participate in a Triathlon and bike ride for charity this year. Expectations of myself in terms of recovery have been a little ambitious and although physically I am doing fantastically, I do still have some limitations when doing physical exercise, especially where they involve using my stomach muscles. I continue to have regular MRI scans which have all been clear so far, including my latest MRI scan in January 2011. So, at this point I am still “disease free” and will continue to have regular CT and MRI scans for the next four years.
This battle isn’t over yet and the future is still a little uncertain, but I am still here more than a year following surgery and diagnosis, and as each month passes, I feel more positive that I will beat this.
First published February 2011
Update June 2012
I am living life to the full
2.5 years post diagnosis, surgery and chemo I am still having clear scans! I am living life to the full, enjoying my family and friends and also went back to work in January of this year! I stay fit with regular runs, walks with my dog and trips to the gym. I completed a triathlon last year for Pancreatic Cancer UK!
Update February 2014
5 years ‘all clear’
I am still having clear scans and this is my important and final 10 months to the 5 years ‘all clear’.
I am doing the 3 peaks challenge in May to raise money for pancreatic cancer research and I am planning a big 5 year party to celebrate and thank all my family and friends for always being there for me and believing I could beat this!
Update September 2015
6 years post surgery!
I am now almost 6 years post surgery! I had a big Gatsby themed party for all my family and friends last Christmas to celebrate my final scan and the all important 5 year disease free news! I have done quite a bit to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer UK – last year I did the 3 peaks challenge and in April this year I completed the London marathon in 4 hrs and 21 minutes – a fabulous day and I raised a further £3,500!! I continue to raise awareness and enjoy life to the full! If I can give one person hope, the angst of all that I have been through will be worth it!!
Update April 2017
I continue to raise awareness
I am now 7 years post surgery and planning to climb Ben Nevis (just for fun) in May, and in October I am doing the Snowdon Challenge consisting of a cycle ride to Snowdon, climb Snowdon and Kayak around the lake before heading to the pub for a much earned beer!
I started a new job in a GP’s surgery at the end of January as the resident vampire. In September I look forward to being a bridesmaid to the oldest of 3 children I nannied when they were small and I still live life to the full.
Update January 2019
2018 saw the wedding of the middle daughter I nannied for when she was small, and I was a witness at this beautiful occasion. My boys turned 18 and 21 and we took a family trip to New York which was amazing.
I still feel truly blessed that I was able to enjoy both of my son’s milestone birthdays! I also enjoyed a crazy time in Vegas with my husband and friends as one by one we turn 50!!
2019 will see us walking the Cleveland Way in May, I am signed up for the Great North Run in September and will see what other challenges we decide to squeeze in along the way!
The end of this year sees my 10 year all clear – this will be celebrated with a big party with my family and friends. And in February 2020 I turn 50 – I remember a time when I wasn’t even sure I would see my 40th!