May - Interview 39

Age at interview: 75
Age at diagnosis: 73
Brief Outline:

May was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2008. She had a Whipple's operation. She gets very tired at times and has bowel problems and has lost a lot of weight but she is still well enough to go out. She loves walking with her dogs.


May was a school secretary before she retired. She is a widow and has two adult children. Ethnic background/Nationality: White Scottish.

More about me...

In January 2008 May felt ill. She had pain under her breast bone and in her stomach area. This was worse at night. She thought that it might be due to smoking, so she didn't go to see her GP for about three months. Her GP thought she had a hiatus hernia and gave her some medicine for that problem. May didn't feel any better. 
A month later May saw another GP and said she had lost about a stone in weight. This GP was worried about the weight loss so sent May to the local hospital for tests. May was then referred to a specialist hospital. She had tests and investigations including two endoscopies, a CT scan and an MRI scan.
May was shocked to hear that she had pancreatic cancer. In June 2008 she had a Whipple’s operation, which she believes went well. She doesn't remember much about the intensive care unit except that she had some bad nightmares. The pain was well controlled. May was in hospital about six weeks. 
May went home and then developed a wound infection, so had to go back into hospital for about three days while she had antibiotics. May did not have any other serious problems and she did not develop diabetes.
May soon got stronger and was able to take the dogs for short walks. When we spoke to her she was going out for about an hour each morning with the dogs, and again in the afternoon. However, she said she gets very tired and has to be careful what she eats because she has fto poo frequently, which keeps her awake at night. Her doctor has increased the Creon, which she takes at meal times, but she still has problems with her bowels.
May was still losing weight. She hadn't had any chemotherapy, because she was too ill. May has had wonderful support from family and friends. Sometimes she worries about the future.
We spoke to May in 2010. 

May described what it was like on the ward after the Whipple’s operation. The nurses were very...

May described what it was like on the ward after the Whipple’s operation. The nurses were very...

What was it like on the ward?
Very quiet. The ward that I was in it was very, very quiet and I think everyone was just much the same boat as myself, just getting over the operations. And there was one lady in particular she wasn’t well at all. And on the, the, on the whole it was quite good, we were all more or less read our magazines and books.
It was quite a quiet ward.
And how long was it before you could start walking around, get to the bathroom on your own?
I would say nearly a week. I was, I was actually on the Zimmer and I had tubes coming from various places and you can be very careful when you’re going to the toilet. But that was within a week I was going to toilet myself.
I’m quite a, an independent person. And I like to do things for myself. 
And the nurses were always busy.
Really, oh yes, always busy. And they didn’t have much time to their self, I felt vexed for them sometimes.
What was the nursing care like?
It was very good.
Oh they were very nice. The nurses were all very good.
And what about communication with the doctors at that stage? 
Well most of the doctors came round every morning and your own doctor, they maybe come round with them and spoke to you and checked your wound and said you’re doing fine. And the nurses dressed them every day, dressed the wounds every day and the, the doctors came, as I say, the doctors came round every day and examined you and said, “You’re doing fine and you’ll be up on your feet and doing your running around the wards shortly”. Well, I used to be a runner anyway so I, that put me at ease.

May took Creon but she still had diarrhoea and had her bowels open two or three times a night....

May took Creon but she still had diarrhoea and had her bowels open two or three times a night....

How long after the operation was it before you could start eating a little bit?
Now…. where my food’s concerned, I always had a wee bit every day.
Didn’t matter if I felt like eating or not I always had something. Something that was easy to digest. 
And now can you eat most things?
I can eat most things, but there again I’ve got to be careful what I’m eating because my toiletries are not that great.
And I’m up during the night quite a lot. So I’ve got…
Do you have, do you have to get, get up and go to the toilet …
.. and your bowels open quite a lot?
Aha, aha, aha.
How many times a night?
I’d say about two or three times a night. But they’re trying to overcome that with, they increased my tablets.
Which tablets are those?
They increased them and they can’t give me any more now, they were doing some tests on that to see if they could help me in that way and they have helped a bit, I’m up maybe once, twice a night now which does help.
Is that like with diarrhoea?
No, that’s …
... disturbs your sleep doesn’t it?
Yes, it does, aha.
Do you have to take any other tablets apart from the Creon as a long term result of having the operation? 
Oh, I take quite a few tablets. I take about 15. The, the Creon...
Do you have, did you develop diabetes as a result of …
No, I haven’t, I haven’t developed anything at all ..
Oh that’s good.
… whatsoever. I’m just, if I could put some weight on, that’s the only thing. I mean, just put some weight on.
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