ON World Pancreatic Cancer Day last Thursday, 21 November, Eileen Fingleton from Portarlington told the Laois Nationalist about her cancer diagnosis and how she came out the other side.
She said: “I prepared an early New Year’s dinner, as our two daughters were to be away for New Years. I had dinner just about ready when I had a pain in the upper part of my stomach, which I put down to hunger. After dinner, the pain was no better, so I took some paracetamol, but it had no effect. I also felt pain in my back. I lay down for a while thinking that would help, but no! We decided after a few hours to contact the out-of-hours doctor, who referred me to the local hospital’s A&E, who put it down to pancreatitis.
“I went home after a few days and was fine and returned to work as normal. Everything returned to normal until Sunday 17 February this year.
“On a shopping trip to Dublin, I felt that pain return. I took the painkillers I had been given, but they didn’t work. From the out-of-hours doctor I was sent to A&E in Portlaoise hospital. The following Friday, my consultant asked if he could refer my details to St Vincent’s Hospital, which specialises in pancreatic cancer. I was kept in over the weekend in case I got jaundiced, which I did, along with an awful itch.”
Eileen said: “Wednesday 27 February 2019 changed our lives forever. I recall the consultant telling us that I had a malignant tumour in my pancreas. It was surreal. I switched off. I remember thinking to myself ‒ ‘chat away among yourselves; this has nothing to do with me’.
“One of my worst memories was leaving the consultant’s room and us having nowhere to go to gather our thoughts and sitting in the foyer together crying.
“On 10 April I had my first chemotherapy session on a reduced dosage due to jaundice. Treatment followed every two weeks, together with intermittent scans to review progress. At the end of July, we were given some news that once again set us all in a spin. The cancer was also in my liver, which meant radiotherapy. Surgery was no longer an option for me.
“On 11 September, I had my last of the 12 sessions initially planned and the scan that followed showed the tumours had reduced in both the pancreas and the liver.
“On the advice of my consultant, I opted to continue on a different chemotherapy. I started my current chemotherapy on 9 October and this is going well for me.
“I am in good form. I attend the Cuisle Cancer Support Centre in Portlaoise. I can’t say enough good things about Stella and all the team for the support and services they have given me. I am currently attending mindfulness and art courses on a weekly basis, which is wonderful, as you meet lovely people who have been or are on their journeys.”
Eileen said: “If I can offer advice to anyone it’s listen to your body and seek medical advice. If you experience something different with your body, please don’t ignore it. For me, I had none of the normal symptoms for pancreatic cancer, such as sudden unexplained weight loss, jaundice, itch, back pain. For me, jaundice and itch followed hospitalisation. Listen to your medical team and follow their advice and their advice only. Don’t Google. Get up and dress up every day.
“I could not have gotten through this so far without the support of my husband Andrew and my daughters Carol and Emma,” concluded Eileen.
If you would like more information or have any questions about cancer, contact the Cancer Nurseline on freephone 1800 200700.