People affected by cancer share their stories.
Two years ago, I had a couple of episodes of severe stomach pain a few months apart. I ended up seeing a surgeon and had blood tests, x-rays, CT scans and a PET scan. I got the news that it was pancreatic cancer about a week later.
I’d played and coached top-level sport and thought I was bullet-proof, so the diagnosis really rocked me. I’ll never forget that drive home, it was the quietest one I’d ever had.
The surgeon worked with a medical oncologist and radiation oncologist to plan the treatment. They hit me with everything they had. I had 18 chemotherapy sessions, then a month’s break, 26 radiation sessions, then some weeks off, and then had surgery.
We’d hoped I might only lose part of the pancreas, but they had to take all of it as well as the spleen and gall bladder. I spent 12 days in hospital, then went home for recovery. I had four months off work all up.
I pushed myself to keep walking every day to stay strong before and after the operation. The walking also takes your mind off things, it’s better than sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself.
I had to make some slight changes to my diet, and avoid milk and red meat for a while. Now I can have lean meat, but I always have lots of fruit and vegies.
Because I no longer have a pancreas, I’m diabetic and need to inject insulin three times a day and take pancreatic enzymes before meals. The diabetes has been easy to manage, no problems at all.
I don’t take things for granted with my health now. My diet was good before but it’s even better now, and I make sure I walk every day. I was 113 kg before the operation, and now I’m just on 80 kg and I feel great.
After I had Whipple’s surgery, eating was hard and it was a 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 unprocessed the food, the easier it was to handle.
My tolerances have increased over the years, and trial and error has helped.
Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department, Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Marion Bamblett, Nurse Unit Manager, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, Northern Sydney Local Health District Cancer and Palliative Care Network, and Conjoint Professor, Northern Clinical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Lynda Dunstone, Consumer; Kate Graham, Accredited Practising Dietitian – Upper GI Dietitian, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Gina Hesselberg, Radiation Oncologist, St George Hospital Cancer Centre, NSW; Dr Marni Nenke, Endocrinologist and Mary Overton Early Career Research Fellow, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital and The University of Queensland, QLD; Rose Rocca, Senior Clinical Dietitian – Upper GI, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Gail Smith, Consumer. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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