Rebecca Doyle's Story
I found out about my Tumour in October 2007 when I was only 19.
For about a year prior I was always experiencing pain after eating. I visited doctors several times and voiced my concerns but they all said the same thing, ‘You’re just suffering from acid reflux.’ The doctors would then give me different types of prescriptions and send me on my way. Because of my age they never expected it was something more serious.
It wasn’t until I went to the chemist for one of my many scripts when one of the Pharmacists said to me, ‘something doesn’t seem right. I’ve seen you in here too many times for it to be a simple acid reflux problem.’ She then gave me the name of a good specialist that she recommended I should see. I then walked straight back to the doctor and requested a referral to see the specialist.
A simple Ultra-sound detected a tumor growing inside my pancreas about the size of a golf ball. I was then referred to an Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeon where we discussed our options. We knew straight away that the tumor had to be removed but before this they needed to find out exactly what they were dealing with.
The next step was to have an endoscopy and biopsy. They found the tumour to be a Solid Pseudo Papillary Tumour otherwise known as a Frantz Tumour. A rare low malignant tumor predominantly found in young females.
It was a huge shock because you never think it could happen to you. I just had to stay strong and think positive. It was also very hard on my family as none of us have ever been in this situation before. It doesn’t just affect you personally but also those around you.
Once I found out about the tumor it was only a few weeks before I was scheduled in for the operation. The procedure was called a ‘Whipple Operation’ which is the only chance of a cure for cancer of the head of the pancreas.
The Whipple's Operation is a complex surgery with many potential complications, but I was in the hands of a great surgeon. It was performed in two stages over a 6 hour period:
1. Removal stage
Removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy), the common bile duct (choledochectomy), the head of the pancreas, duodenum, a small part of the small bowel, the lymph glands in the area and part of the stomach.
2. Reconstruction stage
This stage consisted of attaching the pancreas to the jejunum, the bile duct to the jejunum and, finally, the stomach attached to the jejunum to allow food to pass through. They also decided to remove my appendix during the operation just in case there were any complications in the future.
The operation was a success, but understandably, it took a huge toll on my body. I was placed in the Intensive Care Unit for 5 days where I was closely monitored and then placed in a private room for a following 6 days. I was able to leave hospital just in time to be home for Christmas.
I dropped to about 45kg and could barely even walk up a flight of stairs for several months as my body was trying to cope with the traumatic changes. But as time heals all wounds I gradually gained my strength back. It took over a year for my body to adapt to the changes as I found it very difficult to tolerate the simpliest of foods or activities. As a result of the operation and 're-plumbing' as they say, I've had to completely change my diet and restrict my food intake with the support and guidance of a dietician. I also take pancreatic enzyme medication every time I eat to help digest food. This is a small price to pay for the second chance I have been given and nothing compared to what could have resulted if the tumor was left undetected.
My family and friends were by my side all the way and I couldn't have done it without their prayers, love and support. With this type of surgery there was no need to undergo chemo or radiotherapy. They removed the entire tumour and all surrounding tissue. I now continue with my check-ups, scans and blood tests every six months.
Even though I have been left with a scar right across my stomach, it's always there to remind me just how fortunate I am.