Graham’s experience of chemotherapy following surgery

Graham's story. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009. He talks about his experience of chemotherapy following a Whipple's operation

19 January 2015

I had a Whipple’s operation, followed by chemotherapy to mop up any stray cancer cells.

I had my first appointment with the oncologist consultant in Cardiff. He said I was to have 6 cycles of gemcitabine with each cycle consisting of 3 weeks of chemotherapy and one week off so it would all take 6 months. Bloods were taken each time I went, and a tumour marker taken every 4 weeks. The chemo drug only takes about 35 minutes to go in but it takes about 30mins plus to get you ready for it so it’s a good hour and half start to finish.

The nurse gave me a list of possible side effects to be aware of. Nothing major like hair falling out which I was prepared to shave off. I did however cut it short and coloured it pink and blue to see what the kids would say, they weren’t amused though!

One of the things I was told was to keep an eye on my temperature and if it rose above 38 oC then to call. Well, this did on the first Friday after my first chemotherapy, so I rang and was told to go to my local hospital and they would run tests and checks. I was there for almost 4 hours and they found nothing wrong. The only thing I could think of was when I took my temperature I had been sitting next to a radiator!

I was on about month 4 of the chemotherapy treatment when I started to get anxiety and found myself being sick prior to going into the hospital, or after I had finished chemotherapy, or when I came out – never during. I don’t know if it was the smell or just my body saying I was topped up with this stuff. Again, it never bothered me and once I had been sick I was fine.

The last two months got worse each time but again it wasn’t going to beat me. For the sake of a couple hours a week, it could save my life and keep me alive for years to come, so I had to persevere. Even though I was feeling ill once a week, I would come home and go to bed with a hot water bottle and shiver because one of the side affects was flu like symptoms. Again this was short-lived because the following morning I was fine and back to normal.

The last time I had the chemotherapy was awful. For some reason there was a problem with my blood result and it had to be sent away to another hospital for testing. This all put a delay on things. Eventually my last pint of chemotherapy went in and after that it is all a blur, because for whatever reason I can’t remember much of the last session and getting home – in fact not much until the next day. It felt really weird; apparently I was talking as though I was drunk. But I had done it! Chemotherapy finished and 6 weeks off before I had my next appointment with the consultant.

When I went to see my consultant he said that all my blood results were fine and that he didn’t want to see me again. It was the best news you could want.

Six months after discharge from the cancer hospital, the surgeon was still pleased with my progress. I am now 5 years down the road.

To everyone out there who has been diagnosed with whatever cancer, remember you are not alone. Remain positive and don’t let this terrible disease grind you down.

January 2015

Read Graham’s full story here

Read our information on chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer