My Wife Judith
This is an account leading up to the diagnosis of and subsequent treatment for Pancreatic Cancer, incurred by my dear wife, Judith Ann Waters, in 2010/2011.
The story begins in July 2010. Judy and I had recently returned to Adelaide, following a wonderful holiday in the UK and Europe. We both were suffering the usual back pains, associated with people of our age, 69 and 70 respectfully. Normally, some physio treatment would alleviate such pains. However, with Judy, the pain in the middle of her back did not want to go away. The physio said she could do no more and advised a visit to the doctor, in case there was something else other than muscular that was causing the problem. Judy seemed to be able to put up with the pain, which tended to come and go and was not particularly debilitating.
In mid-September, we prepared to travel to Melbourne, by train for a change. A day or so before leaving, Judy said to me one morning, "do I look yellow?" I looked at her and could discern a faint yellowish tinge to her skin, but the next day it seemed to have disappeared. By the time we left home, Judy had faintly coloured-up again, but otherwise felt well. Judy, being an ex-nurse, thought she may have picked-up some hepatitis whilst travelling in Europe.
By the time we reached Melbourne, Judy's appetite for food had decreased. On the Saturday, she was able to do some shopping, whilst I was attending an engineering society meeting. At dinner that night, Judy could not finish her meal, which was a little surprising, as normally she ate well. On the Sunday, we visited the National Gallery of Victoria and the Titanic exhibition, but on returning to the hotel, Judy was obviously not too well.
On arrival back in Adelaide, we telephoned our daughter in Sydney, to let her know we had arrived safely. We told our daughter (an ex-nurse, whose husband, is a doctor), that "Mum" was not feeling well and had turned yellow. Our daughter suggested that Judy should see a doctor at a hospital casualty section, but Judy was feeling too tired and agreed to see our local doctor the next day.
On Monday 20th September, we visited our GP, who organised tests to be done on the next day. Blood tests and a CT Scan were completed on Tuesday morning and in the afternoon we saw our GP again, who informed Judy she had a growth on her pancreas and told her to go home, pack some clothes and go immediately to hospital. Like most people, I had no idea how serious this diagnosis was, although I am sure Judy knew what was happening, but she did not let-on. We soon found out!
Once Judy was "bedded-down" at the hospital, the surgeon came to talk to us and then we discovered the severity of the disease. Subsequently, a stent was inserted in the bile duct, which was being 'strangled' by the tumour, to drain the bile and this was followed some days later, by a major operation to remove half the pancreas. Judy recovered extremely well from this traumatic experience, but of course she became immediately diabetic. The hospitalisation was followed by a course of radiotherapy then chemotherapy, which made Judy feel very sick, with not much appetite for food. Christmas came and went, during which time, Judy was rather subdued, but she was starting to gain strength again.
By early January, after further blood tests and a CT Scan, the oncologist declared Judy to be in remission. This news was greeted by us all with joy, after such an ordeal that Judy had been through. We went to Perth in February for another engineering society meeting, which was followed by a week at a resort, South of Perth, just swimming and relaxing, helping Judy to recuperate. Our joy was short-lived!
By the end of March, Judy was beginning to sleep a lot, particularly during the day. So I made an appointment with the GP. Following some more blood tests and a CT scan, we were shocked to hear the cancer had returned and metastasised in her liver. The outlook did not look very bright and the treatment offered was either nothing or to try some different chemotherapy. Judy elected to go for the chemo, but only lasted a week, because the side-effects were so dreadful. Judy then chose to have no treatment other than pain killers. It then hit me that Judy did not have much time left on this earth.
At this point in time, things started to move. Our newest granddaughter, only two months old, was Christened. I took Judy, courtesy of our children, to see Andre Rieu, one of Judy's favourite musicians. A final visit to Sydney in late May was made, to see our daughter's new house and to catch up with some special old school friends. During all this time, I, with the help of some very special people, the Domiciliary Care crew, nursed Judy through the last stages of her illness. After the Sydney visit, Judy's health started to rapidly deteriorate. On Monday 27th June, we moved Judy from home to the hospice. By the end of the week, Judy's condition was critical and she passed away at 9.29 am on Friday 1st July, with myself, my daughter and my son in attendance. We all miss Judy, oh so much.
During her illness, I could not believe the strength of character that Judy showed. She never once seriously complained about anything, other than being a little uncomfortable. I really believe that being an ex-nurse, she had actually nursed patients under similar circumstances who had died. So although Judy openly appeared to be in denial, as was I, she was probably resigned to the inevitable, as she once said that she had had a good life.
During Judy's illness, all the medical and social support staff were so professional and understanding, including the marvellous care Judy received in the hospice, right at the end. It must be heartbreaking for some of those people, who see cases like ours, but can do little, other than to make the patient as comfortable as possible. For other people following this type of journey, be strong and have hope that one day, this insidious disease Pancreatic Cancer, will be defeated.