Being asked to donate tissue for research was no problem – I’ve had so much removed from my body already there’s not that much left inside! If it means that someone else might benefit from what can be learned from it, then that’s great.
I’d already faced health problems before pancreatic cancer. When I was younger, I had ulcerative colitis, and had most of my colon removed. It flared up again years later and I had more intestines taken out. As I approached 60 I started getting really tired, but just assumed it was my age – I was a self-employed carpenter and had worked hard all my life. By chance in September 2014, a company I did a lot of work for offered me a permanent job and I accepted, as I thought it would allow me a regular, lighter workload. Not long after, I was in the shower and I saw that my skin was going yellow. I went to the GP who referred me for a CT scan and they saw the tumour on my pancreas, but told me that it looked operable.
To be honest, I was calm about the diagnosis: I’d faced ill-health before and these were just a new set of cards I was being dealt, but it hit my family hard. I knew about pancreatic cancer as my dad died from it when he was 61. I was 60 when I was diagnosed and have just turned 61 – I’m determined that history won’t repeat itself. I knew how lucky I was to be diagnosed early enough for surgery and I felt I had at least a chance.
My operation was booked quickly, for early March. I married my partner of 25 years, Paula – my rock – on the 2 March and I had my op the next day, so our honeymoon was a stay in the Royal London hospital. As well as saving my life, it means I’m also unlikely to forget my wedding anniversary!
I was able to work right up until two weeks before my operation, when the jaundice started making things difficult. Jaundice makes you itch terribly and the itching was so bad all over my body that I didn’t sleep a wink the night before my operation – in fact I was really glad to be put under anaesthetic just to get some sleep!
As soon as it was over I just wanted to put it behind me and get life back to normal. I had to have chemotherapy, but again, fortunately, I was able to work, and just had Thursday afternoons off for treatment. Work has been brilliant, they paid me throughout my illness and even for the time I had off for chemotherapy. It did make me tired, it’s like running on a flat battery, but I’ve just finished my treatment cycle and I feel good.
I’m such a lucky man: to take up a job offer with such a great company when I did, and that I was diagnosed in time. I’ve got a follow-up scan booked in soon, and I’ll take the results – whatever they are – in my stride. In life you need to appreciate what you’ve got and keep moving forward no matter what. I appreciate everything I have, fantastic wife, kids, grandkids, a drive to work that takes me along the seafront every day with a view I’ll never tire of. My glass has always been half full.