Patient Story: Mike
Mike tells the story, of being faced with inoperable pancreatic cancer and his brave decision to undergo a clinical trial to help others in the future.
Four months ago, I was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. I had arrived back from Asia feeling somewhat tired and then I went to Milan to speak at a seminar. I came back to London exhausted. My wife thought I had jaundice so I went to my GP who concluded the same from the outward signs. Blood tests showed it was more than that and I was referred immediately to a top oncologist who immediately diagnosed pancreatic cancer.
Not being one to shy away from asking a difficult question, I asked him to advise my personal outlook. He said I had a 20% chance of living until Christmas and 5% of lasting the next 5 years. I was absolutely shocked and astonished at the low survival rates. I wondered how I was going to tell my wife and family. I’m a very positive and optimistic person by nature and I started to read the available literature and was determined to take whatever steps necessary to drive and extend these survival rates.
I was asked to take part in a clinical trial pushing the boundaries of pancreatic cancer treatment to the edge. I agreed and undertook aggressive chemotherapy treatment immediately and very toxic chemicals were given to me to fight the tumour. A fine line is trod between killing the tumour and killing the patient. The many side effects are difficult to manage and I was very immobile and debilitated for a long time. I consoled myself with the thought that I was pioneering knowledge and progress to support others in the future.
This is where I presently stand going through 8 cycles so far of the 12 cycles of chemotherapy every 2 weeks that will take me to the New Year. However, it has become complicated as my immune system is very low and I have recently contracted pneumonia. This meant a 2 week stay in hospital and put back my chemo cycle by a week. My oncologist reviews all the data after every cycle and adjusts and customises the further treatment as necessary.
Chemotherapy cannot cure the cancer but may help lengthen life. The hospital and medical staff who look after me are absolutely wonderful and dedicated. Britain is justly proud of its pioneering doctors and nurses and cancer research facilities which are amongst the best in the world. However, it is beyond the immediate medical facilities that you and those close to you often need help during the chemotherapy and treatment. From a personal point of view my family have supported the way I wanted to move forward. Many issues came to mind given that I have a limited life ahead of me and we discussed all these openly. It is a death sentence and it concentrates the mind.
However, there is no time to worry about death. Because I am exhausted most of the time I am concerned that I cannot get everything done in the time that may be available. The emotional aspects involving my wife, children, grandchildren and other family members who found it difficult at first to understand the enormity of the situation are very real and difficult for me to manage and for all of us generally. However, I also realised my affairs were not properly in order. Powers of Attorney, wills, paperwork on our home, investments, pensions, tax, insurance, social activities, the list seemed endless to sort out. I have had to work my way through most of it.
This is the toughest fight most of us will ever have in our lives and no one should have to face cancer alone. I am very lucky with my family support and my many friends throughout the world. I am also very humbled by the disease. I want to do whatever I can to raise awareness and provide help to those who need it most, particularly young families with children.