Sherry Austin gives true meaning to the term ‘Whipple Warrior’. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, Sherry has not only conquered a Whipple procedure, but also multiple setbacks in her health since being diagnosed. Despite the challenges, she’s got a smile of her face and enthusiasm to embrace life to the full.
My journey with pancreatic cancer began in July 2015. For months I had been feeling nauseous with terrible stomach pains in addition to being treated for sudden onset diabetes. Initially, doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong with me. During this time, I also developed jaundice and was feeling terribly unwell and demanded to be treated at a different hospital. The scans revealed I had pancreatic cancer and the second hospital deemed I was eligible for a Whipple procedure.
Unfortunately, I experienced many complications as a result of the Whipple operation which meant many setbacks in my recovery. Over the past four years, I have been in and out of hospital many times. Although I felt I was given fairly informative booklet about the Whipple procedure, in hindsight I would have benefited from speaking with others who had also had the procedure done. It’s for this reason that I like to share my experience with others so they have a greater understanding of the disease and what to expect after having a Whipple.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the support of Steven, my partner who has been with me every step of the way. Steven has been a true advocate for me throughout my journey and I honestly feel like I wouldn’t be here without his ongoing support.
Now, it’s all about taking each day at a time and enjoying every moment. Last year Steven and I were blessed to have seven weeks in Europe visiting Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Paris, Italy and Dubai. Anything we could see, we did! I was overjoyed to be able to also visit my boss Gerard in London who I have worked with for over 20 years. He has also been an incredible support during my health battles. After taking part in the Walk for Hope we are embarking back to England and on a river cruise through Amsterdam and Budapest for another five weeks holiday.
I like to give back to others by sharing my experiences of pancreatic cancer on the Whipple Warriors Facebook group – an online forum that supports patients and other family members who have been through the Whipple operation. I also run a community arts centre in Brisbane teaching all forms of art to school children, people with special needs and seniors. Art has provided a therapeutic distraction from the pain that I often experience.
My hope is that we can find ways to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier and achieve a greater understanding of the disease. We also need to provide opportunities for survivors to share their experiences. By sharing our experiences, we can help newly diagnosed patients understand their treatment options and feel truly supported.