Catherine's story

I am contacting you as encouraged by a school friend who is also my age now like me and is a key face of breast cancer awareness and is battling secondary cancer and suggested I tell you my story as it may give a boost to any others being newly diagnosed at a young age like myself. I was 36 when I was diagnosed.

So I was diagnosed end of July with a fist sized tumour in the head of my pancreas. I had gone in for an ultrasound a week prior to that with abdominal complaints thinking I had appendicitis or gall stones. It wasn’t but they found this growth which needed more scrutiny so I was immediately referred for a CT scan. The consultant I initially saw called me in on his next day clinic on a Saturday to discuss the results so I knew something was up.  What followed was a very anxious few days as he referred me immediately to a top surgeon Aamir Khan based at the Royal Marsden hospital in Fulham who followed up with a laparoscopy and further scans to provide more information on the viability of surgery. He exuded confidence and believed he could operate successfully to remove my tumour and head of pancreas with the least damage to surrounding organs despite the tumour touching my portal vein.

I was very lucky and after whipple surgery a week later the tumour had been removed indeed with minimal damage to surrounding tissue.

So after a longish and painful recovery in hospital I spent the next number of months seeing gastro specialists to help me control my digestive system as it was adversely impacting my quality of life. I however feel very lucky to have had successful surgery and whilst other types of cancer require chemo and radiotherapy to bring the disease under control, it is difficult with NETs, where sometimes the most effective treatment is surgery. So whilst other types of cancer treatment have unpleasant side effects whilst enduring the treatment I feel NET cancer sufferers, in particular pancreatic like mine, have an impact lasting a lifetime as I will always need to take creon with all food consumed and need to carefully control my diet and have adhesions from the surgery that will always be a discomfort to me.

Anyway I wanted to let you know that I think things happen for a reason..2011/2012 was by far the worst year of my life but also turned out to also be the best as I met my now husband whilst I was recovering, and we were married in June this year. Not only that but at 38 I also have found out I am pregnant and am expecting my first baby in March.

I attach a picture from our wedding and I just wanted to pass this on to you as I know I would have found this immensely helpful and encouraging if I was newly diagnosed and there was someone else in my age group who had gone through the same thing and come out the other side.  Life is definitely trickier now but I generally manage fine on a day to day basis.

I know this can always come back but I remain tremendously positive and know that the medical staff at the Marsden are in control of monitoring me so if something did come back in the future I have my trust in them to help me again.

Many thanks and kind regards