Whipple after finding a tumor in the head of my pancreas
I am a 58 year old American man living and working in Dubai. Mid 2014 I started getting diarrhea and losing weight rapidly, even though I have a robust appetite like Conan the Barbarian. I stay fit, eat mostly healthy and live a boringly clean lifestyle free of tobacco and alcohol. I went from a chubby 205lbs to a skinny 160lbs.
I am sensitive to my digestive issues as I had already had my sigmoid colon removed due to diverticulitis a couple years earlier with no further issues. The surgeon here in Dubai who performed that surgery did a superb job and I was very familiar with his work and the hospital.
After a battery of tests it was discovered I was now type 2 diabetic and I had a mucinous tumor in the head of my pancreas that was blocking the duct going into the duodenum. More test, endoscopic ultra-sounds and second opinions I along with the doctors decided a Whipple was my best option.
The surgeon who performed my diverticulitis surgery had performed this surgery multiple times, but he recommend we bring in a very accomplished surgeon here as the master. I met with the recommended surgeon and I was immediately impressed and put at ease.
I had the surgery on March 7-2015. It took the two doctors 6 hours which was double their estimated time. They informed me nothing went wrong at all, the surgery was a resounding success, but it was just more tedious than typical.
I have an incision about 14 inches long. They removed approximately 1/2 my stomach, 1/3 my pancreas which included all of the head, the entire duodenum and gall bladder and perhaps a foot of my small intestine.
Everyone writes that this is a painful surgery and trust me, it is. I was carefully walking the next day and only spent 6 days in the hospital. 2 weeks after surgery I returned to my office job and started working my typical 60 hour weeks, I felt great all things considered. I was not on any meds other than Creon as a digestive (that may be forever, too soon to tell) and Glucophage for type 2 diabetes which is totally under control. I did not need pain med and I’m not a hero. I did have discomfort, I was careful about movement and diet.
Getting my new system to digest properly took about a month, plagued with foul burps and uncomfortable gut gas, but no pun intended, it passed after the month. I am now eating carefully but normally.
30 days after surgery I was walking the beach for miles and swimming for a couple hours, again no heroics, just careful exercise.
It is now July 15 2015 and I do feel great. Still tender at the surgery site but all is well.
My good news was, the complete biopsy came back negative. The doctors told me it would have turned to cancer if left unaddressed. They also told me, had it been cancerous, in all likelihood the surgery would have captured and isolated the problem.
I am delighted with my choice. I could have gone anywhere in the world for the surgery, but I had the utmost confidence in the team here. Both surgeons specialize in laparoscopy, but they both said this one is best done in the open. I have SAICO insurance via CIGNA and it paid for the entire procedure here.
The surgery is not for the faint of heart, but I think it probably saved my life. For anyone walking the fence on the surgery vs the risk, I hope my experience helps.
Pain and recovery are 1 part the quality of your doctors and 1 part your desire to get well. I did not want to be sluggard moping about in pain so I wasn’t.