Andy was diagnosed in 2013 with operable pancreatic cancer.
I was diagnosed on 31st May 2013, by pure fate, I believe. Now that I look back, I had the first signs in late February with severe abdominal pains, but a visit to the doctors and it was suggested I might have gallstones. I was sent for an ultrasound, but they couldn’t find anything so the doctor suggested I cut out fatty foods and it seemed to work, I was pain free again.
I was due to go to Las Vegas to celebrate my 50th birthday in the first week of March, but my doctor wasn’t keen stating she didn’t think it was a good idea in case something happened whilst I was away. Anyway, as I was feeling fine, I decided it was worth the risk and I went ahead with the holiday. The holiday was amazing, I felt great, my wife and I renewed our wedding vows (Elvis style of course) and I even did a tandem skydive. On our return everything went back to normal, I went back to work offshore on a two week on two week off rotation.
I had started to look yellow
In May I went offshore but after a couple of days on the rig I started to notice my urine was very dark and my stools were pale and refused to flush. I didn’t think much of it as I didn’t feel unwell at all, but I decided to go and see the medic just to be sure. The medic asked to see me again a couple of days later and was concerned as I had started to look yellow and she was pretty sure I was jaundice, so she made the decision to have me airlifted off so I could get checked out at the hospital.
On landing I was taken to the rigs doctor, who wanted to keep me overnight for tests the next day (it was evening by the time I arrived). As I live in Inverness I really wanted to get home so I suggested I go straight to my own doctor first thing in the morning. The rig doctor gave me a letter for my GP and let me go home. All this time I still felt fine, but was visibly yellow. My GP then referred me to the hospital for another ultrasound, still convinced I had gallstones. I was admitted to hospital on Thursday 30th May, and questioned by the nurse about where had I travelled recently. At this point I thought they were thinking I had hepatitis.
We hadn’t considered that they were looking for cancer
It was early evening and they couldn’t arrange another ultrasound so they let me go home and I was told to return the next day. Friday 31st, had another ultrasound, and still they couldn’t find any gallstones so I was given a CT scan. My wife finished work at 4pm and as I was still waiting for the results of the CT scan she came to sit with me.
At approximately 5pm a doctor came and spoke to us, she said there was nothing conclusive about the results but there was a surgeon who might be still on duty that she wanted to have a look at the scan. She told us not to worry though as she couldn’t see any ‘masses’. We waited to see the surgeon, both a bit confused as to what was going on, we hadn’t considered for a second that they were looking for cancer.
It was about 6.30 by the time the surgeon (now our hero!) arrived with the awful news. He had spotted a tumour at the head of my pancreas and said he was going to rearrange his surgery the following week to fit me in for a Whipple’s operation.
Fate was on my side
I owe my life to this amazing surgeon, and now knowing what I do about pancreatic cancer I believe fate was on my side, as exactly 1 week from diagnosis, I had the operation that is the only chance of a cure. I have since had 6 months of chemotherapy, and am hoping to go back to work very soon. Before this, I knew nothing about pancreatic cancer, and I just wanted to show others that there are survivors out there, but early diagnoses is crucial!
Update July 2015
I am now back at work full time and continue to enjoy life to the full
I am happy to say that I am currently doing well. Almost one year to the day after my Whipple’s procedure, I had quite a dramatic scare. I was working offshore and developed excruciating pain in my side, which resulted in me being airlifted off the rig and transferred to the nearest hospital in Shetland, where I spent two weeks under observation.
At the time, I must admit that I was scared that the cancer had returned. Fortunately, it transpired that I had suffered an attack of acute pancreatitis, which although serious, was actually a relief. That incident kept me off work for a couple of months, but I bounced back and the only other issue which occurred as a direct result of the original surgery, was an incisional hernia, which I had repaired in November 2014.
I am pleased to say that since then I have had no more incidents. As I am taking part in a clinical trial, I am seen every 3 months by the oncologist, and I also have regular check-ups with my surgeon. After the operation to repair the hernia, I had another few months off work, but managed to take a wonderful 3 week holiday to Thailand and Cambodia with my wife, my oldest son and his girlfriend – it was just what the doctor ordered! I am now back at work full time and continue to enjoy life to the full, and my wife and I are now looking forward to our next holiday in Florida in October with our daughters and granddaughter. So to summarise, life is good and the future is bright! Bring on the rollercoasters!
Update September 2017
I am very pleased to say that I continue to be in good health and all my results have been clear. I am over 4 years clear of cancer now and feel great. I still work offshore and I have just returned from an amazing holiday in Vietnam with my wife.
Since my last update we’ve been blessed with another gorgeous granddaughter and my eldest son is getting married next year. I still feel very grateful for every day, as I know I am one of the lucky ones.
Update January 2019
I have surpassed the 5 year survival statistics!
I am happy to confirm that I continue to keep very good health, and am delighted to have surpassed the 5 year survival statistics!
My son’s wedding was a wonderful occasion and as a surprise for me, they had arranged for every guest to be given a pancreatic cancer pin badge instead of favours.
I continue to work offshore, and enjoying making more wonderful memories (my wife and I had a wonderful trip to Hong Kong, and even survived the typhoon!)
I still have regular consultations with the research nurse, and hope that my story gives hope to others that there can be life after pancreatic cancer.