Gordon was diagnosed in 2012 with a malignant IPMN (intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm) in the pancreas.
At the age of 46 I would not have imagined that I would be affected by cancer. I’d never smoked, didn’t drink much, and my diet was good. I kept fit, swam as a master with a local swimming club and regularly ran triathlons – so I was hardly in a high risk group.
After a long period of constant diarrhoea and weight loss, with no reason being found, I was back at the doctors a few times with bad stomach pains in late October 2012. Diagnosed as stomach acid I was prescribed Zantac, which worked for a while but then quickly the pain started back worse than ever.
Jaundice and my diagnosis
I was admitted to hospital and by that time was also suddenly jaundiced. After various tests the doctor came round to see me, pulled round the curtain and told me that not only did I have pancreatic cancer but that they saw signs that it had probably spread to my liver.
I was transferred to my areas specialist centre and they did further tests which showed that although my tumour was an IPMN (intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm) it had definitely spread to my liver and that all that they could offer was palliative oncology.
Not to be put off, my wife Catherine and I researched pancreatic specialists to review my case and I was invited for further scans. The specialist identified what was seen on my liver as being just a haemangioma (a collection of blood vessels similar to a birthmark that had always been there) which is totally harmless – and unrelated to the tumour.
I was back down the next week for a biopsy to confirm this and after a week of waiting got the phone call to say that despite the size and advancement of the tumour I was clear for the operation to get a full pancreatectomy.
The operation went ahead on December 18th 2012 and wasn’t without its own drama as nodules were found on my bile duct that had to be sent off for frozen section. After an agonising wait for Catherine the results came back that this was just an infection from a stent that had been previously fitted to relieve my jaundice.
After 10 hours I was brought back round with Catherine and my brother standing by my bed to tell me all had gone well. Being in hospital at the other end of the country and away from my young family over Christmas whilst I was still recovering was hard – but compared to where I was previously it was nothing.
A final piece of good news
The final piece of good news came through a couple of weeks later. The pathology report stated there were no signs of any malignancy in either any of the outlying tissue removed or indeed in the tumour itself (which was the size of a man’s fist). I would therefore not need to go for post-operative chemotherapy and was to all intents cured.
Within 2 months I was back to work.
On the 16th of June, almost exactly 6 months after my operation, I took part in the Lochore Triathlon raising around £1,500 for pancreatic cancer research.
It is now coming up for a year since I first went in to hospital and despite the insulin, enzymes and other tablets my life is pretty much back on track. There is not much that I can’t do now that I did before.
In the world of pancreatic cancer, where survival rates are so low, I am an exceptionally lucky man.
Update September 2018
Since my full pancreatectomy in December 2012 I have made a great recovery and – outside of diabetes control and various other pills – I live a very normal and active life.
6 months after my operations I did a triathlon, and have kept this up doing other triathlons, runs and open water swims. Most recently I did a swim from the Isle of Cumbrae back to Largs on the mainland.