My father's Whipple experience

by Mark Dye
(Forsyth, GA)

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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Sep 25, 2013
Reply to Brenda
by: Mark Dye

My father's doctors were also stumped. They did send him to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL which is one of the medical schools in Florida. They found that the infection had invaded the liver and had to perform some sort of procedure using sophisticated x-rays (or something similar) and were able to clean out the liver. His infections (fevers) did go away. Sorry I cannot give you a more detailed explanation as we live outside Atlanta and my mother accompanied him to Gainesville. Maybe this will help a little.

Sep 25, 2013
Similar Experience
by: Brenda

Thanks for your entry. I have been searching many sites for relevant experiences.

My dad had the whipple procedure in 2011 due to a 9 lb cyst on the head of his pancreas. I believe he had the "normal" removal of the head of the pancreas, bile duct... The cyst also grew around his portal vein. The vein needed to be spliced and connected with a graft. He was in surgery for 10 hours and had 100% of his blood replaced.

About 1 year after the procedure he was back at the Mayo for an infection. Even the doctors at the Mayo clinic were stumped as to where the infection was coming from. He was sent home on long term antibiotics. He has continued to get high temperature fevers from an infection about every 4-8 weeks. Back to the hospital he goes. Blood infections have been diagnosed.

You mentioned:

"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."

This sounds similar to what my dad is going through.

What did his doctors feel was the cause for his fevers?

My dad's doctors are stumped. Any input you have would be great!

Sep 18, 2013
Thank you for Sharing...
by: Jane

Keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. It seems inconceivable that both your parents would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer...Praying for strength and comfort for your mom, and for you as you make this journey with cancer again...very thankful for the success your father found with the Whipple Procedure. Perhaps his story will be an encouragement to other patients experiencing their own struggles with the recovery.

Thank you so much for sharing your story, praying God's Blessings over you and your family, In Grace, Jane

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