Brian, 74, diagnosed in 2014 with pancreatic cancer (adenocarcinoma)

18 December 2014

For a number of years I helped my son with his business and in return I used a room as a woodwork workshop.

After a number of years I decided that I wanted to give up the accounts side of his business and had lost some enthusiasm for the woodwork, mainly because his business was six miles from home. Once I had sold the woodwork machinery and he found a qualified accountant to do his annual returns I was free! He visited me at home and questioned me about my health (are you all right Dad?). In fact I was and had planned a week walking in the Lake District two weeks later.

The very next day I became jaundiced. An urgent visit to the GP and onward to hospital the same day. I saw a doctor seven hours after my arrival and following an external examination she, with some persuasion, informed me that I may have a tumour.

Scans and blood tests followed; one day I am determined to be discharged from hospital without leaving any blood behind.

The scans suggested that the tumour was at the head of the pancreas and after history taking I was deemed fit and healthy enough to undergo the Whipple procedure. The laparoscopy element discovered that the cancer had spread to the liver, diaphragm and abdomen wall. So now it is the chemotherapy route. Fortunately my hospital is taking part in the SEIGE trial (scheduling nab pacIitaxeI with Gemcitibine) with Abraxane, and I am the first in this hospital taking part, with my first chemo dose on Tuesday 11th November.

The trial is simply to determine how the drugs are best used. In one part of the trial, Abraxane and Gemcitabine are infused separately on the same day, and in the other part the two drugs are given sequentially on separate days. Not sure which ‘arm’ of the trial I will be on until I have been ‘randomised’.

Having now learned what some of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer are, I have used my experience of hindsight to recognise backache, vomiting (although only once), acid reflux, lower area stomach pain (relieved by leaning forward) and some breathing difficulties (having to take the occasional very deep breath).

Cycle 1, week 1 of the chemotherapy: my infusion appeared to have been routine. My stomach was a little ‘distended’. I managed some small work in the garden when I was home. I thought I was becoming incontinent during the evening, but all appeared OK the next morning. My face had a pink tinge to it (as if flushing) but no itching and I’m taking anti-nausea tablets.

Update from March 2015

Fortunately I was placed on the sequential part of the trial which involves both drugs on the same day. There is only one other patient at my hospital on this trial. There was a third who reacted badly to the regime and has been taken off the trial.

I am now at the end of the fourth cycle of the SEIGE trial. This is later than originally planned as I was suffering some side effects over the Christmas period which, together with an infection, delayed the following cycle by two weeks. A further infection after this cycle resulted in another delay of one week. The dose of Abraxane was reduced on both occasions and I am now “side effect free” apart from some facial flushing the day after treatment, and can live my life as normal except for limited exercise.

The eight week CT scan was inconclusive, so was followed up by an MRI scan which showed little change. However the 16 week scan was subject to discussion with the trial supervisors. The hospital wanted it to take place after the fourth cycle but it actually took place at the strict 16 weeks. This scan showed that the original tumour had shrunk by almost half (4.1cm to 2.6cm) with similar reductions in the metastases. So back in April for the fifth cycle.