Dane Wilde went to bed on Saturday, July 23, last year a happy and — he thought — healthy man.
The 49-year-old managing director, who ran his own shop-fitting company, ate well, drank moderately, exercised and didn’t smoke.‘As usual, I got up early with my two small daughters, Madeleine, then six, and Olivia, three,’ he recalls. But when I drank my morning coffee, I suddenly got a dull pain in my stomach, wrapping around to my back. ‘I tried to ignore it, but by the afternoon it was crippling, so I went to the on-call GP.
He diagnosed indigestion and sent me off with some tablets, but I instinctively knew it was more serious than that.’The next morning, Dane went to his regular GP and was sent straight to hospital for blood tests.
‘Scans picked up nothing, so they diagnosed pancreatitis [an inflamed pancreas] and advised me to abstain from alcohol for a month and eat less processed food.
‘But I tried to be upbeat by telling them I was going to get better, so they stayed pretty positive throughout.’ Dane was one of the fortunate 20 per cent of pancreatic cancer patients eligible for surgery.‘For many patients, because it usually presents so late, the tumour has often infiltrated a major blood vessel or spread to other organs, such as the liver or lungs, making surgery impossible or of no benefit,’ says Mr Charnley.
He underwent an operation called Whipple’s procedure, the most common type of pancreatic surgery, which involves removing the top of the pancreas (which is where most pancreatic cancer is found), along with part of the small intestine, the gall bladder and part of the bile duct, and sometimes part of the stomach.
Although he didn’t realise this at the time, these are all classic signs of jaundice.‘We cried a lot that night, desperately hoping there would turn out to be another explanation.‘I’ve raised £4,000 so far for a fundraising walk this month.I’m determined to be one of the 4 per cent that make it past five years.It’s more common in older people, with 80 per cent of cases occurring in over-60s.‘I asked if she thought it was pancreatic cancer, but she said I was too young for that and it could be a number of other things,’ says Dane.‘By this point, I was very yellow, still itching and having almost constant diarrhoea.’ Various tests showed only irregularities in enzyme levels.