My father's Whipple experience
by Mark Dye
My father was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in late 2004 when he had his gall bladder was removed. His cancer was resectable and the surgery was scheduled after he has sufficiently recovered from the gall bladder procedure. He was 74 and had been in excellent health. He did not smoke or drink.
The procedure took quite a long time to complete (I believe almost 8 hours). I believe it required removing part of his pancreas (head), stomach, bile duct, small intestine and stomach. He spent a couple of days in ICU after the surgery and was moved into a normal hospital room to recover more. Immediately after the surgery he was doing quite well. However, things changed.
About two weeks after the procedure he became very weak and nauseated. He had a very difficult time keeping anything down. He seemed to spend almost all of his time in the bathroom. He had to be hospitalized because he developed a fever and they had to try to get some nutrition into him via IV. He went from around 160 pounds to 105 during his recovery. After a week or so he was sent home. He had to start to eat around 7 very small meals a day and that helped. He really was not put on any meds and started to get better.
However, the process of going back to the hospital occurred roughly every 6 to 8 weeks for the first year. However he slowly regained his strength and his hospital stays after fever were getting shorter and after about 14 months he had recovered about as much as he was going to recover.
Yet, the best part of this was my father then survived until 2010. He lived right at 6 years after diagnosis and Whipple procedure. The quality of his life was very good until the very end and then things went down very quickly.
Unfortunately in the last 6 weeks my (now 82 year old) mother has been diagnosed with non-resectable pancreatic cancer. Her cancer has invaded the portal vein and has spread into the lymph nodes and she will not undergo the Whipple. We have started chemo. It is interesting to note my father never underwent chemo.
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