Vicky was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007. She had a neuroendocrine tumour which is rare. She had a Whipple’s operation and then radiofrequency ablation to treat small lesions in her liver. She feels well but knows the lesions may increase in size.
Vicky first had symptoms in May 2007. She felt faint at times and found it hard to walk up hill. She also looked pale. Her GP prescribed iron tablets and decided to investigate further. Vicky had a colonoscopy, which showed that her bowel was fine, and she also had an endoscopy. Then in July she had a CT scan which showed a lump on her pancreas. This was a rare condition, a neuroendocrine tumour, which had developed its own blood supply.
A few weeks later, the surgeon tried to put in a stent to keep an important blood vessel (the coeliac artery) open, before he could attempt a Whipple’s operation. This was no successful, so Vicky was discharged from hospital. In October doctors tried to insert a stent once more, this time via an artery in her arm. During this time Vicky had numerous CT scans.
The doctors also did an embolisation procedure to try to reduce the blood supply to the tumour. They did this while Vicky was awake, in the radiology department. A line was inserted via her groin. This procedure was quite uncomfortable and Vicky had pain in her shoulder afterwards. The embolisation was partially successful and Vicky was re-admitted to hospital so that the Whipple’s operation could take place the next day.
After the Whipple’s operation Vicky was in the high dependency unit for a few days before she moved to a ward. She was unable to poo for a long time, which was worrying. In mid December Vicky was still receiving intravenous fluids. Vicky went home just before Christmas. She was eating a little but still being fed via a JPEG tube into her small intestine at the same time.
This JPEG tube was removed in January 2008, but when it was removed part of the intestine was torn so Vicky had to be admitted to hospital and lie as still as possible so that the tear could heal. She had to be fed intravenously again for a while.
Vicky recovered and went home. In February 2008 she had a CT scan which showed that she had some lesions on her liver. She was told that some of the lesions could be removed using radio-frequency ablation, so she was admitted to hospital once more. The first radio-frequency ablation was in May 2008. This went well. Vicky had a second treatment in June, but suffered hypothermia and was discharged with a nagging pain in the liver area. She was readmitted to hospital with an abscess in her liver, which had to be drained. A fortnight later she had to go back in to hospital as the abscess was still causing problems. A second drain was inserted. Vicky went home with her abscess drain. This was removed in August 2008, a year after all her treatment had started.
Vicky then started seeing a more local consultant who specialised in liver disease. In November 2008 she had a scan and after that the doctor told her that she had multiple lesions on her liver. This was very depressing news. The doctor referred Vicky to an oncologist. Another scan in March 2009 suggested that the lesions had not grown, so the oncologist decided not to start chemotherapy. In October 2009 Vicky had another scan, which showed that the lesions had grown a bit, and the doctor considered starting chemotherapy. However, another scan in January 2010 found that the lesions had not grown again, so the doctor cancelled the chemotherapy course.
Vicky was due to have an MRI scan in about three months after we spoke to her. Now Vicky is feeling quite well. She takes Creon and lansoprazole to help with digestion. She still gets pain in her food pipe from time to time, which is a side effect of the Whipple’s operation. She feels almost back to normal and does as much as possible because she is aware that she could become ill again at any time.
We spoke to Vicky in 2010