James, 44, lives in Manchester together with his companion Andrea and sons Ben and Daniel. He was recognized with a neuroendocrine tumour, with the first within the pancreas, in 2015. That is his story of preventing pancreatic most cancers.
“There’s no other way to say this…you have cancer”
Me? No, it can’t be me. I’m by no means sick…this was not a part of the plan. It was 9 September 2015, and I used to be 42. Instant ideas turned to my companion, Andrea, on her solution to the hospital, and my two boys, Ben and Daniel. I seemed out of the hospital window. The pendulum had not simply swung, it had thrashed spherical in a large circle and tipped me the wrong way up. What occurs subsequent?
I’d arrived on the hospital that morning for what I assumed was a easy stent process. I’d been feeling unwell for a while, but at no level did I feel I used to be a conscript to the band of most cancers victims. Having been comparatively lively (rugby/cricket/health club), I had placed on various weight after our second boy was born as I turned much less lively and was consuming unhealthily. In September 2013 I weighed 24 stone. Hitting 40, I spent the most effective cash I’d ever spent on a private coach, and misplaced 9 stone.
All the things modifications
On the flip of the yr I’d observed that my metabolism appeared to have modified. Initially of 2015 I used to be pooing seven occasions a day. My weight-reduction plan regime of recent veg and plenty of white fish/meat had lapsed over the Christmas of 2014, and I used to be again bingeing on the crisps, chocolate and cheese and pickle sandwiches. I used to be knackered too. I simply couldn’t carry my head off the pillow. At lunch I used to be typically dropping off once more, and at night time I’d be falling asleep at 7.30pm. Beforehand I’d be up at 5am and off to work.
As 2015 progressed my bowel habits have been like rusty faucet water, seven occasions a day. Typically I couldn’t handle the drive to work with out an emergency cease. What the hell was occurring? Regardless of being again to my dangerous consuming habits I used to be nonetheless dropping 2lb in weight every week. I’d come residence from work, exhausted. Andrea would say, “You look grey”, or my pores and skin would typically have an orange tinge. Individuals would say, “You’ve lost so much weight!” (This may make me really feel good). Some would say, “Is everything all right?”. Sure, I’d breezily reply, I’m again pounding the health club, I’m considering of creating a rugby comeback. In my head, I might be considering – I’m knackered, my abdomen is wrenching itself out of my physique. I’m drained.
Nothing to be seen
By Might 2015 it acquired dangerous. I took a uncommon journey to my GP the place blood exams confirmed excessive blood sugars. He informed me I used to be borderline diabetic. I used to be dropping pounds although and by altering my weight-reduction plan, I assumed I might type it. My GP despatched me for a colonoscopy to see why I used to be having issues. The digital camera by no means lies, and there was nothing to be seen. The colorectal surgeon stated that I both had irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis, most certainly to the previous. He wrote ‘fodmap diet’ on a scrap of paper, and advised me to google it, comply with it and settle for my new lifestyle, consuming bland, tasteless meals.
In late Might 2015, I walked the Yorkshire Three Peaks with some buddies. This shall be straightforward, I’d thought, I’m lean and match. However after the primary ascent I really feel unsteady on my ft, then we stopped at a pub to eat. Embarrassed, I stated, “I can’t go on”. I used to be thirsty like Alec Guinness in Icecold in Alex, downing about 4 pints of orange juice and lemonade. There was a wierd style in my mouth. I fell asleep within the pub. The lads accomplished the stroll, I didn’t. I felt terrible, not only for the stroll, and letting them down, however so drained.
Shoulders again, chest out
In August 2015 we took a household vacation to Cornwall, close to Falmouth. I used to be so drained, my bowels have been far and wide, I didn’t need to eat. And I used to be SO chilly. I’d sit within the solar in my puffer jacket, shivering, glowing orange. I used to be so depressing, I used to be by no means ailing. I didn’t inform anybody how a lot ache I used to be in, till one night time within the vacation cottage my abdomen felt prefer it was going to blow up. I introduced to Andrea, “I’m so sorry for ruining the holiday, but I’ve got to go to the doctor.”
I really like my household, and we love Cornwall, and I assumed I used to be ruining it. I went to the GP, he was semi–retired, and he recognised my surname. He requested me if I knew Roger Dadge. “Yes,” I stated proudly, “He’s my Dad, well he was, he’s no longer around.” The GP educated beneath him when he was out of med faculty, how unusual? “I’m sorry to hear he’s passed,” he stated. Then, “Oh, your blood results, your sugars are through the roof. You’re jaundiced, you’re anaemic. You need another referral. Right away.” The vacation was ruined.
September 2015, in hospital, with a special colorectal surgeon. He’d been so diligent, check and scan, scan and check. He noticed one thing on my ampulla, he thought it was a mass, or an adhesion. Thus far the checks had proven it was “nothing nasty”. I used to be there for this minor operation to place a stent through which ought to clear the best way in order that my pancreas might begin working correctly once more. Since I’ve all the time been ‘Mr Indestructible’, I’d all the time attended all of the exams and consultations alone. We’re a busy household, I’ve a busy job, and I simply needed to go out and in to those appointments.
I used to be dressed within the robe, able to go down, and the marketing consultant got here in. “You’re always on your own. Can someone come?” he stated. “There’s no easy way to say this, you’ve got cancer…” Andrea got here instantly. I’m sorry, I’ve ruined every little thing.
The pendulum swung proper spherical, and I used to be off to the sensible Christie hospital. The individuals have been superb, BUT I HATED IT. I might odor rotting flesh, everybody else was sick, NOT ME. Shoulders again, chest out, I’m not one in every of you, I’m not unwell.
I met the oncologist for the primary time. Andrea was with me. I’d appeared him up, triple first from Oxford. He advised me I had a most cancers on my pancreas – a neuroendocrine tumour, with the first within the pancreas. It was an enormous one; he stated they wanted to shrink and peel it away from some main blood vessels so they might function. “You can start chemo next week,” he stated. It was my son Daniel’s birthday the subsequent week. I didn’t need to break a seven–yr–previous’s social gathering, so we began the chemo the day after. Don’t take a look at the web, the oncologist stated. I seemed on the web. The display may as nicely have stated ‘Your life is over’.
Inform me what I have to do
I had so many questions; how lengthy have I obtained, how lengthy have I acquired, how lengthy have I received? It turned out nobody knew. Identical to earlier than actually. How a lot info do I want? Bloggers, different victims, different carers, all of them know the trivia of their sickness. Okay scores, blood counts, up down, in out, shake all of it about. I couldn’t cope. Simply TELL ME WHAT I NEED TO DO! The oncologist stated he would give me a prognosis in years if I needed. Sure, in fact I needed that. He advised us, Andrea wept. She didn’t assume it will be that brief, she stated. I acquired across the dialog by saying, “Get me 11 years, Daniel will be 18. I just want to see him to adulthood and my job is done.” That was the deal.
I had the chemo. I attempted to learn the listing of negative effects, nevertheless it was too lengthy and I used to be so drained I couldn’t focus. “It’s basically anything up to but excluding my head falling off,” I joked. I obtained on with it, “Shrink and peel, shrink and peel” I’d chant. My GP stated the chemo can be robust, he stated I’d have the ability to get out occasionally, within the automotive. WHAT NO WALKING? I used to be off out, strolling on the moors. Each step, “shrink and peel”. My chest was exploding, I couldn’t breathe. I needed to telephone Andrea to select me up.
We informed the boys. I appeared them within the eyes, glistening, so clear, large–eyed and filled with hope. I noticed a light-weight going out. Ben was enjoying the trombone in a carol live performance. What number of extra of those would I see? He advised me he’d considered a remedy for most cancers; all he must do is discover a virus which can assault the most cancers cells, and it may be injected in to me. Nice concept I say, I’m doing my greatest to not destroy it. The subsequent week immunotherapy was within the information. I used to be considering, “This was Ben’s idea.”
Christmas got here and went. The shrink and peel chant was not working, though the tumour had stopped rising. I nonetheless don’t know all of the element. Some individuals informed me I ought to know all the things, get copies of my notes. I couldn’t bear it, I simply needed to know what I wanted to do.
The remedy hasn’t labored
Nothing was stopping me, I used to be operating up and down the seashore with the boys, laughing, enjoying contact rugby, leaping off hedges, kicking footballs. I’M NOT ILL, I’d inform myself. At night time I might hear my coronary heart beating in my ears, louder and louder. What number of Christmases had I received? What number of heartbeats?
In April 2016, the chemo was over. The tumour was nonetheless massive, and nonetheless too near the main vessels. It was too dangerous to function. The docs stated they might put me on one other chemo drug, to attempt to cease the most cancers spreading. I agreed, discovered myself mendacity face down and an enormous needle was put in my left buttock. No operation. Again at work, individuals requested how I used to be. I’d by no means say, “The treatment hasn’t worked and I don’t know how long I’ve got. Maybe see you next week, maybe.” I didn’t need to spoil it for them too.
I googled my tumour once more, and found I had a star co-sufferer. Everybody wants a star to maintain up with today. Mine is Steve Jobs, and I noticed an image of him in his ultimate days. I’m Mr indestructible, shoulders again, chest out. I’m NOT going to finish up like that. I famous that my tumour was greater than his, however I’d opted for chemo quite than counting on meditation as my remedy course.
Give me power
I ran the Manchester 10km for charity, with my mates. I’ve all the time been a cart horse, plodding alongside. The youngsters have been watching with their mates. They’d made a banner, I really like them. Shoulders again, chest out, run prefer it’s straightforward, you’re a thoroughbred, I advised myself. I stumbled over the road, hugged my mates, kissed the boys, they stated they have been pleased with me. However I assumed I used to be ruining it for them, it’s not their job to offer me power, it must be the opposite approach round.
My oncologist stated that the buttock injections would proceed for so long as I might stand them, however that I ought to see the surgeon who would clarify why I couldn’t have the operation. So off I went, alone as I didn’t need to spoil one other day for Andrea. The surgeon, Saurabh, was there, and he disagreed about my operation. He stated he might function, however he hadn’t accomplished it earlier than, and it was an enormous one. He’d assisted to a surgeon in Cambridge although, and he needed to provide it a go. A visit to Cambridge to see ‘The Man’ later, and we have been able to go.
Saying my goodbyes
I stated goodbye to work, made a will, wrote letters to Andrea, Ben and Dan. I made extra particular preparations about songs and poems for my funeral. I needed all the things to be settled once I was on the working desk. I obtained match, fitter than I’ve ever been. I out–educated my private coach. He was on the ground, not me. Each bead of sweat was the most cancers screaming in ache.
‘The Man’ and his staff have been up from Cambridge, however I needed Saurabh to do all of it, I favored him, quite a bit. Within the automotive Dan was singing ‘Wonderwall’, by Oasis. He sang the road “…I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me.” You’re my saviour Dan, I assumed. I’m getting via to your 18th, each my boys will probably be males. It’s all going to be wonderful.
We purchased a brand new home, with a conservatory wanting over a wooden, which we might transfer into after the operation once I was match sufficient. It was a brand new construct, so “if things go wrong there’s scope for single level living”, we don’t say as we have been being proven round. It was Dan’s birthday after the operation, so we have now an enormous social gathering earlier than my operation, however we don’t say “just in case”.
We informed the boys concerning the operation. I might be away, doing my greatest, as I’ve all the time tried to do. I informed Ben that because the eldest he can be the person of the home whereas I used to be in hospital, and I advised Dan that he should assist Ben with Mum. Chest out, shoulders again boys, you’ll be effective. I heard them cheering me within the run, all the best way spherical, and I’m all the time cheering them on.
I think about you
Andrea dropped me off on the hospital. I advised her I used to be prepared, that she might go. I didn’t need her to spoil the boys’ night by being late, she couldn’t do something there and Ben had homework. My sister had the letters to offer to her, simply in case.
Saurabh got here in to see me, he was prepared too, all of the contingencies have been in place and ‘The Man’ was there. He requested me once more if I used to be proud of him doing the process. “Absolutely,” I stated. “I have faith in you.”
I used to be in a robe, and the anaesthetist informed me to anticipate a pointy scratch. A junior physician nervously put a cannula in and it bursts. “Don’t worry,” I say. “These things happen.”
…I’m enjoying cricket, at my native membership. I’ve not performed for seven years, however I’m match sufficient to return. I’m batting, on 96, and the ball is pitched brief sufficient for me to caress it via the covers off the again foot into a niche for a four, when, “Wake up James, sit up, that’s right, breathe”…
I’m alive, I AM ALIVE! Saurabh arrived, and stated, “I got it all out, as far as I could see, but tests will confirm.” I requested if he did all of it with out the necessity for “the man”. He did, I knew he would, I used to be so pleased. I lay again in mattress within the excessive dependency unit. Andrea got here in to see me, I sat up, shoulders again, chest out. YOU ARE NOT ILL. As she talked to the ward nurse, I mouthed “I’m so happy, I love you.”
I’m sitting typing this in my conservatory, wanting over the woods. I’m nonetheless beneath surveillance. there’s nonetheless an opportunity I’ll find yourself wanting like Steve Jobs, however I’m not in ache like I used to be.
Cancer grabs you, however it may possibly by no means take you. As trite because it sounds, everyone seems to be totally different, all of us have totally different household circumstances, help networks, remedy amenities, approaches to info. What it is advisable to work out is one of the simplest ways to strategy the battle, and the remedy.
What’s fixed is hope, for that’s the solely factor which can maintain you going, for there might be darkish days. Hope doesn’t simply come from inside; you will discover it throughout. Reside for the second proper now. In any case, the whole lot is terminal, it’s simply the way you make use of your time earlier than reaching the terminus. Don’t be frightened to be trustworthy, with your self and with others. Keats wrote, ‘Beauty is truth, and truth beauty, that is all ye know, and all ye need to know’. I by no means knew the true which means of that till now.
To donate to Pancreatic Cancer Motion: Textual content PANC22 to 70070 to donate £5
Pancreatic Cancer Story: John William Road