Dec 24, 2011 - 4:45 am
I am surprised P.C. was relegated to rare and other. I just lost my mom to this monster. It's a viscious cancer. It's very hard to detect it early given there are few warning signs. Most early symptoms appear similar to other treatable health issues so the Dr goes no further with testing. It wasn't until my mother developed type 2 diabetes out of nowhere that we saw a possible symptom. The Doctor admitted it was odd only 3 months earlier on a regular routine checkup and blood panel her fasting Blood Glucose was 80 but he was convinced since she came to the table with a family history of Diabetes and given she was showing gross signs of hyperglycemia at that point testing at 500 and vomiting bile this was her problem so meds ( metformin ) for the diabetes were applied along with Reglan for the nausea and after a weekend stay in the hospital to make sure her Kidneys were ok home she went.
For the next two weeks we didn't see much improvement. Blood sugars still in the 300's and still vomiting. Finally I'd had enough and demanded more testing. Every test was taken. From head to toe and the first thing the doctor said was good news... NO CANCER. I'm not kidding. The final evaluation was she'd have to start giving herself shots of insulin. One after every meal and one additional shot of long lasting insulin in the evening as her basal shot. The vomitting was reduced down to what they call gastroparesis ( sp ) a paralyzation of the digestive system that takes place in many diabetics. They assumed the metformin pill was also a culprit in the vomitting so this was discontinued since she was now giving herself shots.
Again went home and for 4 months things were looking better although she said periodically she had more aches and pains and generally had no energy. We saw the Doctor religiously as we adjusted to life with diabetes. The Dr said it would take time to regain her strength. So out of nowhere suddenly one morning the vomitting starts up again and her blood sugars go through the roof. I'd adjust the insulin ratio and nothing was bringing it down. Her urine was turning a strange color. Back to the hospital we go. Immediately tests were ordered. Doctor thought maybe a Kidney Infection. This time things were much different. Her white blood Cell count was down and they'd found a blocked bile duct and had an ambulance waiting for her to rush her to another hospital for further testing. We knew what was coming and in two hours time we were told she had pancreatic cancer located on the head of the pancreas.
When they opened her up to surgically remove it ( the procedure is called the whipple ) they found additional cancer at the base of the aortic valve blood vessel. The surgery was stopped as she would bleed to death if they tried to remove it off the vessel. In short my mother was terminal without the procedure. Her options were chemo to shrink it down giving her a little bit more time and maybe if the cancer on the blood vessel went away they could re-address doing the whipple.
They were very frank with no promise that the chemo would do anything more then offer more time but that time getting chemo could be horrific because of many side effects. We sat there stunned remembering how months earlier we tested and tested to rule out such a nightmare.
What I've learned about Pancreatic Cancer is sad. It's a tough one to beat and it can hide out in the body for years before emerging and when it does emerge to the point it is detected usually in late stage it is agressive. It hides in areas that aren't always picked up on scan. It ravages every joining organ ( stomach, liver etc.. and nerve.) The increased risk of thrombosis elevates with this cancer as well. It's just a cruel disease. One day mom was dealing with a slow progressive move towards the terminal stage and the next it moved like lice. Even hospice was shocked at how quickly things turned for her in a matter of days. After the abrupt changes in intense symptoms in three days time it took her. From diagnosis to her last breath it was exactly to the date 5 months. The pain she endured in the end was awful.
My advice to anyone if you have back pain, indigestion, see increased blood sugar levels DEMAND several scans to rule this disease out or at least catch it so early that you can fight back. Understand this disease also can keep showing up in hidden places through the nerves and vessel even after exhausting surgical measures to get rid of the detected portion.