This is my second blog but my third time on the ‘kidney cancer rollercoaster’. Previously I shared my experience of how I lost one kidney to cancer, only for it to return some years later in the other and explained in a video for Kidney Cancer UK how I was treated using cryoablation in 2016.
This is Mike Tunstall’s update blog, June 2020.
Moving on to December 2017 and my next follow up where I received an abdominal CT scan. Unfortunately, this revealed a tiny tumour in the uncinate process of the pancreas. It was suspected to be metastatic kidney cancer or a neuro-endocrine tumour, but further tests were needed to confirm the diagnosis.
I was promptly referred to the Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary (HPB) team at the Royal Liverpool Hospital where I had several more specialised scans and biopsies to ascertain the type of tumour and to determine treatment pathway.
Several months later I was diagnosed with metastatic renal cell carcinoma in the pancreas. Kidney cancer spreading to this area is apparently very rare. The good news was the tumour hadn’t grown too big and initial scans had suggested it was far enough away from the large portal vein to allow surgery. But there was still a small chance that once they had started the operation, if they felt it was too close to the vein then surgery would be aborted leaving palliative care as my only option.
On Sunday 30 September 2018, I was to be admitted to hospital but first Kaye, my girlfriend, and I had a huge carvery; the last supper as I dryly referred to it! On the Monday I received a pancreaticoduodenectomy, also known as a ‘Whipple Procedure’. Half of my pancreas together with the tumour, gallbladder and part of the duodenum were removed during a mammoth eight-hour operation.
They monitored me overnight while I was in the post-operative critical care unit before going back to ‘5A’ Ward -also known as PERU (Pancreatic Enhanced Recovery Unit) – the next day with a multitude of tubes hanging out of me! The operation had been a success with only one complication, a pancreatic leak which I had drains inserted for. I was very sore but regardless, I was out of bed the next day, getting stronger and more mobile over the week. My surgeon, Declan Dunne is a great believer in fitness both before and after surgery and made sure I didn’t lay in bed all day! And Declan has his own story of recovery to tell, too.
After 11-days I returned home to continue my recuperation. I have to take medication with every meal- to do the part of the job my pancreas would normally do – but it’s a small price to pay for still being alive.
My first 6-month scan was clear, as was my first annual scan and my next is due in October. I am most grateful to my surgeon Mr Dunne, my specialist nurse Phil Whelan and all of the team at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. They truly are amazing.
Everybody stay safe, Mike.