My symptoms started with itchy skin. After a few days I was jaundiced and had dark coloured urine and back pain. I thought I had a problem with my gall bladder so I went to Emergency.
The doctors did several tests and scans and couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so they put a stent into my gall bladder to prevent it from becoming blocked.
The stent was changed four times over the course of a year. I had regular scans but no cancer was detected.
I wasn’t feeling well and I had a bout of pancreatitis, so my surgeon removed my gall bladder and did a biliary bypass. They were then able to see that I had a carcinoid pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour on the head of my pancreas.
One good thing for me was that I didn’t have to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
I had a Whipple procedure. It was a serious operation and I was in hospital for five weeks.
During recovery in hospital, I didn’t have a feeding tube – I drank water and built up to other fluids. Over the next six months, I lost a lot of weight because I didn’t eat a great deal.
I now eat a mostly vegetarian diet with meat 1–2 times per week. I take a digestive enzyme supplement called Creon® with food and increase the dose with a larger meal. I try to eat well most of the time.
I rarely eat sugary, fatty or dairy foods. I’m able to maintain a healthy weight.
Since I’ve learned to manage my diet, I was able to go overseas this year on a European river cruise. I was careful with what I ate and I rested a few days when I needed to, but I didn’t have any serious problems.
I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when my third child was six weeks old.
I went to the doctor because I was itchy and had constant diarrhoea. My GP initially thought it was gallstones and sent me for routine tests. After the CT scan I went into hospital for a laparoscopy and then had a biopsy, which confirmed I had cancer.
A month later I had Whipple’s surgery. After the procedure, eating was hard and it was a real balancing act getting it right.
I found that I would fill up quickly, but it helped to eat smaller meals. I also can’t drink a lot of liquids. A lunchtime meal of a cup of tea and a soup is out of the question.
My taste buds had changed and chocolate was no longer appealing but ice-cream was okay. Fatty foods didn’t settle well at all. The more natural the foods, the easier it was to handle. I found packaged foods were harder to deal with.
My tolerances have increased over the years, and trial and error has helped.