After experiencing worsening back pain and severe indigestion for about 12 months, followed by subsequent investigations, my husband Don was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in December 2011. He was instantly put under the care of an excellent gastrointestinal surgeon who, after consultation with his colleagues, suggested the only chance of reducing the size of the tumour for surgery was to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Don’s treatment began in January 2012 and by April he was deemed to be a suitable candidate for splenectomy and distal pancreatectomy. Don recovered well from this procedure but over the ensuing 12 months it was necessary for him to have further rounds of chemotherapy. In mid-June 2013, when the tumour began to grow again, Don’s oncologist felt it may be worthwhile trying Abraxane, a drug which at the time was only available on the PBS to breast cancer patients. Faced with a quite sizeable bill for each course of this drug, I began Googling to see what I could find about any possible subsidy which may be on offer.
It wasn’t long before we found our way to Geoffrey Cummins and the John Logan Foundation. We were so very grateful when the Foundation along with Specialized Therapeutics Australia agreed to cover the cost of the treatment. Unfortunately, after a few months, Don developed peripheral neuropathy which made it necessary to stop the Abraxane. While taking this drug, Don’s tumour markers were falling so this outcome was very disappointing. However, we then set out to find what else — not drug related — might be available to treat this insidious disease.
Our next step was to head to London in October 2013 where Don’s remaining tumour was treated with the Nanoknife (IRE – Irreversible Electroporation), a procedure not available in Australia at the time. The result was 12 months reprieve from any sort of treatment; a very special time for us and the family. However, his symptoms returned near the end of 2014 and chemotherapy was reinstated. When very little progress was being made in reducing the tumour and Don was becoming increasing intolerant to this treatment, we returned to London for a further Nanoknife procedure in March 2015. Sadly, on this occasion the treatment didn’t halt the march of the tumour and in September we travelled to Melbourne where he was again treated with the Nanoknife. On this occasion all didn’t go to plan and he required emergency surgery to repair a vein damaged during the procedure. Despite putting in all his effort to recover from this major surgery, Don passed away in early January 2016.
There are not words enough to say just how much we appreciated the support from the JLF and in particular from Geoffrey Cummins who remains a wonderful friend to this day.