For pancreatic cancer survivor Debbie Moors, living with the disease means accepting a new version of herself – enjoying life, staying focused on the things she can do and helping put the spotlight on a disease that impacts thousands of Australian families each year.
Debbie shares her story with us.
I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2016 after several weeks of feeling not quite right. Each night I was waking with discomfort and mild pain from my oesophagus through to my lower abdomen. Laying on my left side I could feel a bubbling sensation rising-up from my stomach over and over again.
As a result, I was waking up tired for work in the morning. Also not wanting to be unwell for Christmas, I had it checked out. As a GP for over 40 years, I knew there was cause for alarm when my liver function blood tests returned high, but hoped it was something less serious. Subsequent tests revealed pancreatic cancer was the probable cause. Not long after this, additional symptoms like jaundice also appeared.
I was fortunate to have a great surgical and oncology team on my side to help navigate the long road that lay before me. My tumour was fortunately operable, which I know many are not. I underwent a Whipple operation followed by six months of chemotherapy. While difficult for me to accept, I had to take time off work as a GP during chemotherapy which has progressed me into an early retirement from a job that I loved.
Living with side effects from treatment means accepting a new me. I have been enjoying life doing the things I can do rather than fretting over the changes to my life, or what I can’t do. I’m blessed to have a close, loving family – my husband, daughters, sons-in-laws and four gorgeous grandchildren. I’ve even found relaxation and fun in a new hobby pastel painting.
I’m thankful to be a survivor of pancreatic cancer and I want to help put the spotlight on this disease, so more Australians are aware. It’s important to not ignore persistent, unusual symptoms for you. Don’t be afraid to consult your GP. A good GP will be glad you came in sooner rather than months down the track, which some patients do. Don’t ever feel like you are being too demanding if you’re concerned.
Our greatest challenge when it comes to this disease is that by its nature, it is difficult to detect early because the location of the pancreas hidden deep within the abdominal cavity. It’s also further complicated by symptoms that can be vague and non-specific until it has grown to an advanced size or spread to other parts of the body.
It’s why we need to see significant advancement in research. It would be wonderful to have a reliable early detection test for pancreatic cancer, such as a blood test. This hasn’t been discovered by researchers as yet, but I’m hopeful. There are also promising advancements in new treatments but there needs to be more funding.