Carol was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2008. She had a pyloric preserving pancreatico-duodenectomy and cholescystecomy followed by chemotherapy. Now she feels well. Her blood markers are rising but scans have not revealed a recurrence.
In October 2008 Carol woke up feeling sick and started projectile vomiting. It carried on so she went to see her GP. The GP took some blood and thought she had an infection so prescribed antibiotics. A few days later Carol was a bit jaundiced. She felt very tired and ill and realised that there was something seriously wrong. Carol’s poo had become pale in colour and her pee looked dark. She was not in pain, though she had some tummy pain when the doctor checked her over. She had lost weight.
On 1stNovember Carol had a consultation with a gastroenterologist (a doctor who looks at problems with digestion). Carol was admitted to hospital for tests. She had an ultrasound scan, a CT scan and more blood tests. The next day the consultant told her that she had a tumour on the head of her pancreas, which had caused diabetes. Carol wanted more information and she felt relieved that she had a diagnosis, but she also felt shocked and very sad.
Carol went home for the weekend but returned to hospital the following Monday to have a stent put in her bile duct.
Carol went home again and then had to go to a diabetic clinic for a consultation with the diabetic nurse specialist and dietician. She was told that she would have to inject herself with insulin each day. A nurse visited her at home to see if she was managing the injection correctly.
Then Carol saw the surgeon, who told her that he could do an operation called a pyloric-preserving pancreatico-duodenectomy, cholecystectomy and jejunostomy artificial feeding. A small part of the pancreas would be left in place. Carol agreed to the surgery right away.
Carol had surgery inDecember 2008. She had an epidural before the operation to help with pain. The surgery went well. The surgeon said that the tumour had been grade 4 cancer. He said that it was bigger than expected and couldnt guarantee that he had removed the entire tumour, but he hoped that he had.
Carol recovered quickly. She had two days in the intensive care unit and then she went back to the ward. Immediately after surgery Carol was fed through her jejunostomy tube. A few days later she started eating small amounts of food by mouth. The jejunostomy tube was left in place for four weeks just in case there was seepage between the stomach and duodenum, or an infection or any other complication. Carol went home after about two weeks in hospital. Before her operation she had organised plenty of help with cleaning, washing and shopping. She felt very tired and needed to rest.
In January 2009 Carol started chemotherapy. She was given gemcitabine every Friday for 13 weeks, with one week without treatment. The transfusion took about half an hour. Carol took anti-sickness pills before and after each treatment. She did not feel sick but felt very, very tired. During this time she lost two stone in weight. Chemotherapy finished in May 2009.
In February 2009 Carol saw an endocrinologist. He told her that what was left of her pancreas had started to make insulin again so she could stop her daily injections. Carol was delighted to hear that her pancreas was working again, though at first she felt a bit nervous about stopping her insulin. However, she stopped the injections and felt fine. She takes Creon at meal times to help with digestion.
Carol sees her surgeon every six months and her oncologist every two to three months. Carol is a bit concerned because her blood markers are going up, which suggests there could be something wrong. However, her CT scans have not revealed any problems. Carol feels very healthy and her life is as normal as it was before she had the surgery. She walks, cycles, swims and looks after her garden.
Carol has had wonderful support from her family and friends. She also believes that she’s had superb treatment from the doctors and nurses, all within the National Health Service.
We spoke to Carol in 2010