I’ll begin with saying you rock to those who have fought and who are currently fighting Cancer. And all my love to those who have lost someone to this battle. It’s never easy.
My fight has been over for many years now. I’m part of the 5% of Pancreatic Cancer Survivors. It was found when I was 26.
I had been having major stomach pains for months on end where I would be doubled over in pain and tears but I kept refusing to go to the doctor. One day my husband made an appointment for our son and sneakily snuck me in that appointment too so when my sons appointment was over the doctor turned to me and asked what mine was for.
I almost said nothing 😂 but I told him about the pains and he sent me off with a referral to get an ultrasound because he suspected gall stones.
I attended my ultrasound and all was going fine. The technician said yes there is definitely gall stones there but soon went quiet. Looking around for what felt like forever she then stopped and asked me to wait while she went to get someone else to have a look. I kind of started freaking out a bit at that point. I mean this was worse than a google diagnosis of dying, this was someone who knew what she was doing being worried 😩 She was gone for what also felt like forever. She came back with another lady who had a quick look and then left. I was then told that there was a black mark on my pancreas and they would recommend a ct scan to my doctor to check. She stated it was more than likely a pseudocyst but they needed to check anyway.
So off I went to the doctor who then sent me for my Ct scan. I think I was in a daze at this point. I mean what could this possibly all mean?
Sure enough the ct scan did show that it was a mass located on my pancreas and needed further investigation. Which meant I was sent to the hospital for an endoscopy to do a biopsy and check whether it was a solid mass (tumour) or a cyst. By this point they had decided that even if it was just a cyst they would operate to remove it anyway.
I remember slowly coming to on my bed after my endoscopy and overhearing one nurse say to another nurse how it was so sad and she is too young. I knew they were talking about me because I was the only young one there at that time. I lay there with my eyes closed processing for a bit.
Sure enough when I opened my eyes the nurse explained to me that it was a tumour and they had sent off the biopsy to diagnose what type. The nurse then asked if I would like to bring my partner in and I could tell him privately. We were shuffled into a room and I gave him the news. I don’t think either of us knew what to think or feel at that point.
The day Patrick Swayze died I was in the hospital waiting for my diagnoses watching the news reports. I still remember the fear sitting in that room and looking at my then fiancé with anxiety. I’m sure you can imagine how scary that day was for me.
When the doctor called us in I had been fighting tears, let me tell you that was a battle. At first the doctor said he was sending me off for more tests because it was neuroendocrine but then the diagnosis changed and phone calls were made and then he said he wasn’t doing that anymore. It was all so confusing. They booked me in for my surgery and while sitting in the waiting room the receptionist, who bought me my paperwork and was so empathetic to my tears, said few words to me but looked at me with sadness in her eyes. They must see those things all the time.
The journey that followed was definitely not an easy one. I had a rare type – the first ever seen at my hospital so they had no idea how they were going to treat it.
I had the Whipple procedure, which is the standard when it comes to Pancreatic cancer, at least if it’s not too far advanced. Because they got all of the tumour and there was no metastasis they decided to just keep watching it to make sure it didn’t come back and if it did then they would look at radiation or chemo. Due to my age they didn’t want to subject me to all those chemicals if they didn’t have to. I was thankful for that, and still am to this day.
I was the youngest to have the whipple at my hospital at that time. If you don’t know what the Whipple procedure is, it’s an operation – mine took 9 1/2 hours, they originally said it would be 4 hours but there were some complications, needless to say my poor fiancé was having a hard time not knowing what was happening. They removed half my stomach, my gall bladder, 2/3 of my pancreas, my duodenum and also 29 lymph nodes. The tumour was almost about to invade a vein so they found it at the most opportune time they could have.
In recent years studies have shown that the type I had tends to be more benign than malignant but back then only 500 people in the world had been diagnosed with it since it’s discovery and only 1-2 cases per year here. All I know is I am thankful that they operated when they did or who knows what potentially could have happened.
Instead of the usual 10 days in hospital I was there for 3 weeks but I’ll tell you about that in part 2…